by lizard

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

Just because it’s a religious holiday that doesn’t mean America’s benign empire can take a break from killing dangerous foreigners. While Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, drone strikes blow up “militants” in Yemen.

The Obama administration also kills militants during Christmas. After two consecutive years of Christmas drone strikes, it’s almost like an American tradition.

When America is attacked in a similar manner, let’s say in Boston, the outcry never seems to viscerally connect the horror experienced domestically with the horrors visited regularly upon people in places like Yemen and Pakistan.

Sure, there are some who take the opportunity of questioning the effectiveness of drone strikes after domestic blowback happens, but the concern has yet to produce that kind of sustained criticism to actually effect the policy Bush started and Obama escalated.

Acknowledging the impact of drone strikes (Rolling Stone) means obliterating the delusional thinking of politicians like Pat Williams who absurdly describe the US empire as benign. From the link:

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and anxiety are becoming rampant in the different corners of the country where drones are active. “Drones hover over an area for hours, sometimes days and weeks,” said Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni-American anti-drone activist and cofounder of Support Yemen, a media collective raising awareness about issues afflicting the country. Yemenis widely describe suffering from constant sleeplessness, anxiety, short-tempers, an inability to concentrate and, unsurprisingly, paranoia.

Alwazir recalled a Yemeni villager telling her that the drones “are looking inside our homes and even at our women.’” She says that, “this feeling of infringement of privacy, combined with civilian casualties and constant fear and anxiety has a profound long time psychological effect on those living under drones.”

Last year, London-based forensic psychologist Peter Schaapveld presented research he’d conducted on the psychological impact of drone strikes in Yemen to a British parliamentary sub-committee. He reported that 92 percent of the population sample he examined was found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – with children being the demographic most significantly affected. Women, he found, claimed to be miscarrying from their fear of drones. “This is a population that by any figure is hugely suffering,” Schaapveld said. The fear of drones, he added, “is traumatizing an entire generation.”

The continued terrorizing of entire populations in countries like Yemen provides continued justification for jihadists to inflict similar violence on Americans in the states.

Here’s another contrast worth reading, juxtaposing words spoken by Obama with the death he oversees:

On April 18, after the 11 Afghan children and woman were killed and buried, President Obama came to Boston and spoke at an interfaith service following the Marathon bombings. He affirmed Bostonians and their patriotic history, said America was with them, stated everyone’s prayers were with the bombing victims and their loved ones, and lauded the heroic work of the first responders and medical staff. He declared that the “discipline” and “real power” and “love” of all involved was “the message we send to those who carried this act out and anyone who would do harm to our people. Yes, we will find you. And,” he added to applause, “yes, you will face justice.” He condemned “the perpetrators of such senseless violence—these small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build, and think somehow that makes them important. . . . what they don’t understand,” he went on, “ [is] our faith in each other, our love for each other, our love for country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences there may be—that is our power. . . . That’s why,” he said, “a bomb can’t beat us. . . . That’s why we don’t cower in fear. We carry on. . . . We build, and we work, and we love—and we raise our kids to do the same.” He ended with, “Tomorrow, the sun will rise over Boston . . . over this country that we love. This special place. This state of grace.” His final words were met with applause: “May God hold close those who’ve been taken from us too soon. May He comfort their families. And may He continue to watch over these United States of America.” (“Transcript: Obama’s remarks at interfaith service for Boston bombing victims,” New York Daily News, Apr. 18, 2013)

“These small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build.” At about the very time President Obama spoke these words in Boston, the sun rose over the village of Wessab in Yemen, and was followed by a U.S. drone strike that killed five people. It was the family village of Farea al-Muslimi, an activist and journalist, who testified about that and other drone strikes before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. His words would have provided a reality check for those interfaith worshippers listening to Obama’s speech. Al-Muslimi stated, “This is not an isolated incident. The drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis.” He became specific: “I have spoken to many victims of U.S. drone strikes, like a mother in Jaar who had to identify her innocent 18-year-old son’s body through a video in a stranger’s cell phone, or the father in Shaqra who held his four- and six-year-old children as they died in his arms.” He also “spoke with one of the tribal leaders present in 2009 at the place where U.S. cruise missiles targeted the village of al-Majalah in Lawdar, Abyan,” where “more than 40 civilians were killed, including four pregnant women.” (“Yemeni Activist Farea al-Muslimi Urges U.S. to Stop Drone War in His Country,”, Apr. 25, 2013)

“Discipline” and “real power” and “love,” President Obama told his interfaith audience after the Boston Marathon bombings. Farea al-Muslimi put it this way: “What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab.” (Ibid)

“These small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build.” It is about Yemen—and much more. It is about the Obama administration killing children and other civilians with drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. About the Pentagon “’counting all military-age males in a strike zone as militants,’ barring ‘explicit’ posthumous (italics added) intelligence proving their innocence”—to hide, and make more palatable, the number killed by this ongoing war crime. It is about “Obama’s remarkable transformation from anti-war Senator to drone-warrior-in-chief.” (“Report: Obama Redefines ‘Militant’ to Avoid Counting Civilian Drone Deaths,” Yahoo, May 30, 2012) It is about the criminal assassination, without due process, of American cleric Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, and two weeks later the assassination of his 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman.

If Americans want to be safer, then maybe our benign empire should stop slaughtering people with drone strikes.

by lizard

In Ukraine, the new government that came to power through a western-backed coup is trying to exert its power from Kiev through lethal violence:

As negotiations over the crisis in Ukraine begin in Geneva, tension is rising in the Ukrainian east after security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in the city of Mariupol. Ukrainian officials said the pro-Russian separatists had attempted to storm a military base. The killings came just after the unraveling of a Ukrainian operation to retake government buildings from pro-Russian separatists. Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the authorities in Kiev of plunging the country into an “abyss” and refused to rule out sending forces into Ukraine.

That report comes from Stephen Cohen, one of the few journalists trying to counter the US propaganda surrounding these escalating events. Here is how Cohen described the lead up to this crisis on Democracy Now a few days ago:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Stephen Cohen, it was just a few weeks ago when we had you on, as the crisis was beginning to unfold in Ukraine, and a lot of what you said then turned out to be true, which was that you feared that there would be a split in Ukraine itself between the east and west. And obviously Crimea was just developing then. But it seems that all of the emphasis in the coverage here is as if the crisis started with Russian aggression, not with the earlier period of what was NATO and Europe’s involvement in Ukraine before the deposing of the elected president.

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, I think you’ve emphasized the absolute flaw in at least the American—because I don’t follow the European press that closely—the American media and political narrative. As a historian, I would say that this conflict began 300 years ago, but we can’t do that. As a contemporary observer, it certainly began in November 2013 when the European Union issued an ultimatum, really, to the then-president, elected president, of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, that “Sign an agreement with us, but you can’t have one with Russia, too.” In my mind, that precipitated this crisis, because why give a country that has been profoundly divided for centuries, and certainly in recent decades, an ultimatum—an elected president: “Choose, and divide your country further”? So when we say today Putin initiated this chaos, this danger of war, this confrontation, the answer is, no, that narrative is wrong from the beginning. It was triggered by the European Union’s unwise ultimatum.

Now flash forward to just one month ago, about the time I was with you before. Remember that the European foreign ministers—three of them, I think—went to Kiev and negotiated with Yanukovych, who was still the president, an agreement. Now, the Russians were present at the negotiation, but they didn’t sign it. But they signed off on it. They said, “OK.” What did that agreement call for? Yanukovych would remain president until December—not May, when elections are now scheduled, but December of this year. Then there would be a presidential election. He could run in them, or not. Meanwhile, there would be a kind of government of national accord trying to pull the government together. And, importantly, Russia would chip in, in trying to save the Ukrainian economy. But there would also be parliamentary elections. That made a lot of sense. And it lasted six hours.

The next day, the street, which was now a mob—let’s—it was no longer peaceful protesters as it had been in November. It now becomes something else, controlled by very ultra-nationalist forces; overthrew Yanukovych, who fled to Russia; burned up the agreement. So who initiated the next stage of the crisis? It wasn’t Russia. They wanted that agreement of February, a month ago, to hold. And they’re still saying, “Why don’t we go back to it?” You can’t go back to it, though there is a report this morning that Yanukovych, who is in exile in Russia, may fly to eastern Ukraine today or tomorrow, which will be a whole new dimension.

But the point of it is, is that Putin didn’t want—and this is reality, this is not pro-Putin or pro-Washington, this is just a fact—Putin did not want this crisis. He didn’t initiate it. But with Putin, once you get something like that, you get Mr. Pushback. And that’s what you’re now seeing. And the reality is, as even the Americans admit, he holds all the good options. We have none. That’s not good policymaking, is it?

In the constant attempt to justify western interests, you can count on the Polish Wolf. When I quoted an excerpt from Cohen’s Democracy Now interview from the quote above, this was part of PW’s response:

As to the EU ultimatum, I don’t think people understand how the EU works. It is a trade and customs union. If Ukraine signs a trade and customs deal with the EU, and with Russia, the EU is inadvertently in a trade relationship with Russia that it’s membership doesn’t want to be in. And anyway starting a discussion of who started the crisis in 2013 is foolish indeed – you have to look as well at Russia’s willingness to wreck havoc with Ukraine’s economy, via border and gas controls, just to destabilize Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, and you’ll see why the EU proposed what they did.

No one is arguing that Russia is some benign trade partner with Ukraine. Both Russia and the EU offered their respective deals, and the elected president of Ukraine chose Russia’s deal over the EU. And because of that choice, the 5 billion dollar investment to “build democracy” Victoria Nuland cited was ratcheted up into a full blown overthrow of the Ukrainian government.

Instead of talking about a sensible off-ramp to a military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, we have nutjobs like James Jeffrey in a Washington Post op-ed saying the US should send troops to quell the crisis:

The best way to send Putin a tough message and possibly deflect a Russian campaign against more vulnerable NATO states is to back up our commitment to the sanctity of NATO territory with ground troops, the only military deployment that can make such commitments unequivocal. To its credit, the administration has dispatched fighter aircraft to Poland and the Baltic states to reinforce NATO fighter patrols and exercises. But these deployments, as with ships temporarily in the Black Sea, have inherent weaknesses as political signals. They cannot hold terrain — the ultimate arbiter of any military calculus — and can be easily withdrawn if trouble brews. Troops, even limited in number, send a much more powerful message. More difficult to rapidly withdraw once deployed, they can make the point that the United States is serious about defending NATO’s eastern borders.

This is insanity, and further proof of the delusional propaganda being deployed to establish the psychological foundation for a military confrontation with Russia.

America has lost its shit. Who is going to fight WWIII for the .01%? Our military does not currently project strength, despite the fact this country accounts for over 40% of what the entire world spends on “defense”.  US troops are exhausted, over-extended, and literally killing themselves at record rates.

The US, with its post-9/11 crusade to police the world, has inched geopolitics back to a point of tension where we have to think about Mutually Assured Destruction. Non-proliferation can’t happen when countries that give up their weapons of mass destruction get regime-changed, like Iraq and Libya.

No first use is an interesting concept that will unfortunately never gain traction in our current political environment:

No first use (NFU) refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. Earlier, the concept had also been applied to chemical and biological warfare.

As of October 2008, China has publicly declared its commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons.

As of 2010, India has signaled a shift from no first use to no first use against non-nuclear weapon states.

NATO has repeatedly rejected calls for adopting NFU policy, arguing that preemptive nuclear strike is a key option. In 1993, Russia dropped a pledge given by the former Soviet Union not to use nuclear weapons first. In 2000, a Russian military doctrine stated that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons “in response to a large-scale conventional aggression”.

De-escalation doesn’t seem possible now, not when the information war is blazing hot and US troops are beginning to be strategically deployed.

Benevolent voice of benign empire? Purity of purpose? Nope, that brand of delusional thinking couldn’t be farther from the truth.

America is out of control.

by lizard

The journalist who spent a weekend in America’s so-called rape capital decided to recently amplify some big problems with the candidacy of Kirsten Pabst, which jhwygirl covers here.

In the Missoulian article about Pabst’s run for Fred Van Valkenburg’s position, you have to get through a lot of fluff about horses before getting to the problems:

Early in 2012, Pabst switched gears and went into private law practice on her own – despite being the heir apparent to the county attorney’s seat.

“I really loved it and I loved the work,” Pabst said later. “It just got to a point … I was spending so much time working that I needed to take a break and spend time with my family and my horses.”

Horse races being what they are, I wonder how much enthusiasm there is for Pabst among Democrats. It appears even Missoula Democrats are pondering their political exposure, as this article seems to indicate:

The Missoula Democratic Central Committee adopted a resolution this month calling on the Missoula County attorney and Board of County Commissioners to “realign their financial resources to create meaningful improvements in addressing sexual assault cases.”

“The crime of sexual assault produces lifelong consequences, and all allegations of sexual assault need to be taken seriously by law enforcement and other institutions that have power in Missoula,” reads part of the resolution.

On Thursday, Missoula County Democrats board chairman Dave Kendall said county officials are making progress in providing services for victims and bringing justice to bear on perpetrators. However, he said the legal dispute between the County Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice remains a concern.

“We think the money should be spent on helping victims and not on lawsuits,” Kendall said.

Nice to see Missoula County Democrats say something.  That’s certainly better than saying nothing.

by jhwygirl

BuzzFeed’s Katie J. M. Baker has published a damned fine and thorough assessment of Kirsten Pabst’s candidacy for Missoula County Attorney.

Ms. Baker puts together a pretty long list of issues that should make any Missoula resident rule Pabst out of the running for the next County Attorney – to replace the faultering and uncooperative Fred Van Valkenburg.

I especially love that Katie J.M Baker used Pabst’s blog posts. While Pabst has been critical of not only the media, but of anonymous bloggers like me, Pabst was so committed to her blog words that she’d delete them in two or three days. Apparently there are people out there who know that game. Who’d of thought of that???

And for those of you still fans of Mr. Van Valkenburg, consider his words on Pabst – who is openly criticizing Van Valkenburg’s leadership:

As chief criminal deputy, Pabst was free to establish any policy she thought she was appropriate in the criminal division, he said. “She was an integral part of the management of this office for over five years.”

Missoula’s once again in the national news over the University of Montana & Missoula’s rape scandal – this time via Kirstin Pabst’s candidacy.

If Missoula is wanting to put the rape scandal behind us, putting Pabst in as chief of the county attorney’s office is NOT the way to go about it.

by lizard

Michael C. Ruppert was once an LA cop, which gave him more credibility than your average conspiracy theorist when it came to topics like the CIA’s involvement in the drug trade. Here’s a clip of Ruppert confronting the CIA director:

Last Sunday, after hosting his radio show The Lifeboat Hour, it’s being reported that Ruppert went home and committed suicide. Ruppert’s death was announced by Carolyn Baker on Facebook, where she assured people this wasn’t one of those “fake” suicides.

Ruppert believed in peak oil and Dick Cheney’s complicity in the 9/11 attacks. His book Crossing the Rubicon is one of the best examinations of events leading up to the terrorist attacks on 9/11/ I’ve ever read. It’s exhaustively researched and provides copious amounts of footnotes.

People who stake their names and reputations on exploring conspiratorial inquiries don’t usually do very well, personally or professionally. Conspiracy theorists are ridiculed, badgered and harassed into relative obscurity as they try to raise awareness about the dark capacities of the deep state.

I believe that someday trailblazers like Michael Ruppert and Gary Webb will be given the credit they are due. At great personal cost they have brought to the surface (for those willing to look) details about the damage rogue agencies like the CIA have perpetrated on the American people.

by lizard

Not good. Ukraine just took a big step on the road to civil war today:

Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov has announced the start of an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists.

He told parliament it was being conducted “stage by stage, in a responsible… manner”.

Hours later, gunfire was heard at an airbase which officials said had been in the hands of militants.

Mr Turchynov said the airbase at Kramatorsk had been “liberated” from “terrorists”.

The White House is now supportive of a violent state crackdown on protestors:

The United States is giving its tacit support to Ukrainian military action against pro-Russian separatists.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says such action isn’t the preferred option, but that the Ukrainian government has to respond to what he says is an untenable situation.

At Moon of Alabama you can take a trip down memory lane to a time (2 months ago) when Obama sang a very different tune about how the Ukrainian government should respond to protestors:

Obama says the U.S. urges Ukraine’s military not to get involved in a conflict that must be resolved politically. He’s expressing outrage about images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic guns on Ukrainian people.

Obama says in a statement that Ukraine should respect the right of protest and that protesters must be peaceful. He’s calling for dialogue to reduce tensions and address the people’s grievances.

I guess now that the US has its guy in power, the time for addressing grievances has passed. It’s spring time. Time for war.

How will Russia respond? Will Putin take the bait? Will war in Ukraine lead to a US confrontation with Russia?

by lizard

Ukraine is on the precipice as Russian war planes buzz US ships and Brennan, the director of the CIA, returns from a trip to Kiev over the weekend. A deadline has come and gone with no action from the Ukrainian government. Buildings are still occupied and reports of shots fired are popping up. Any small spark could set things off.

The manner in which power transferred in Ukraine has created a government legitimacy problem Russia is now openly exploiting. Part of that legitimacy problem comes from legitimate concerns with the level of US involvement, especially after Victoria Nuland’s Fuck the EU leak hit the web.

I know that kind of evidence is hard for some to absorb, but it validates concerns that unnecessary provocations took place to dispose of a corrupt tool who made the mistake of taking the wrong mobster’s deal.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I suspect the same people who support ends justify the means reasoning behind the overthrowing of the Ukrainian government are probably appropriately worried about the sudden stand off over Cliven Bundy’s cattle and the grass they graze.

I finally got caught up on this right wing memicane (meme+hurricane) after catching a little Chris Hayes tonight, and boy howdy, this has got to be one of the best Fox and friends outrage-gasms ever.

Unfortunately, the underlying belief that the Federal government is illegitimate is a very real, very dangerous opinion shared by the kind of people who showed up in armed support of Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay what he’s obliged to pay, by law.  How do you think our government would react if right-wing militia groups tried to storm and occupy government buildings by force in DC?

Here’s something I would hope is obvious by now: when governments are removed, power vacuums are created, and that usually means instability and violence. Just look at Libya, where the Prime Minister quit after just a month on the job:

Libya’s interim prime minister handed his resignation to parliament on Sunday, just one month into the job, saying gunmen had tried to attack his family.

Abdullah al-Thinni’s resignation adds to the growing chaos in Libya, where the government has struggled to control brigades of former rebels nearly three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

By delegitimizing governments abroad in preparation of enacting regime change after regime change, the cheerleaders of neoliberal free-market expansion don’t seem to understand that the same reasoning is used domestically by right-wing separatist movements in the States.

Going back to the situation in Ukraine, here’s how Michael Whitney summarizes US interests from an article posting today at Counterpunch, titled Is Putin Being Lured Into a Trap?:

The overriding goal of US policy in Ukraine is to stop the further economic integration of Asia and Europe. That’s what the fracas is really all about. The United States wants to control the flow of energy from East to West, it wants to establish a de facto tollbooth between the continents, it wants to ensure that those deals are transacted in US dollars and recycled into US Treasuries, and it wants to situate itself between the two most prosperous markets of the next century. Anyone who has even the sketchiest knowledge of US foreign policy– particularly as it relates to Washington’s “pivot to Asia”– knows this is so. The US is determined to play a dominant role in Eurasia in the years ahead. Wreaking havoc in Ukraine is a central part of that plan.

I look forward to be doing told why this is just more nonsense being spewed by us crazy lefties.

by lizard

It’s impressive watching the contortions of Democrat interventionists regarding Ukraine. At Daily Kos, this post asserts the US “Did Not Spend $5 Billion to Destabilize Yanukovich”. There is literally nothing of substance, so I won’t quote any of it.

I will quote from the latest scapegoating of the left from PW, titled The American Left has Failed on Ukraine, which starts with this:

The American Left has absolutely and utterly failed to reach correct conclusions or make correct decisions in Ukraine. The result is that John McCain, who never met an ‘enemy of my enemy’ he couldn’t get behind, no matter how horrific, looks almost (almost) sane by comparison. Where a few weeks or months ago there could be legitimate debates, smart money was never on the side of the contrarian Left, and events have shown this to be true in at least two major ways.

I guess the smart money PW is referring to is that totally non-de-stabilizing 5 billion the conspiracy theorists speculate about. Because that cash was all just for good democracy building stuff, right? Let’s give PW a chance to provide some substance to his claim lefty contrarianism has failed to reach correct conclusions regarding the crisis in Ukraine:

1. The government currently in Ukraine is not a threat to Russians living in Ukraine. Quite the opposite – Russians in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are actively undermining the government of Ukraine (No, the status of Russian as an official regional language, by the way, has not changed. Russia Today reported that it has, and to my knowledge has failed to note that the president of Ukraine never signed into law that act).

On what authority are we to accept such a sweeping claim that “The government currently in Ukraine is not a threat to Russians...”? In my previous post, the link to Andre Vltchek’s piece reports on legitimate fear from people in Eastern Ukraine. Maybe PW can tell us if anyone with thoughts not aligned with the current government should be considered a separatist “actively undermining the government of Ukraine” and, once labeled, what should be done with them?

Instead of acknowledging legitimate fears sweeping Ukraine on all sides, PW launches a weak spin on the fascist element now in positions of power, post-coup:

2. The government is not dominated by neo-fascists, at least, not yet. Svoboda and Pravdiy Sektor are both still extreme minority parties, and the armed right wing is under heavy police pressure by the Ukrainian government. Indeed, the only party that has anything to gain from Pravdiy Sektor’s gaining power, and the only party acting to make that more likely, is Russia. Both Svoboda and Pravdiy Sektor have loudly opposed admission to the EU or the involvement of the IMF in Ukraine (interestingly, the exact same position toward Ukraine advocated by our local ‘progressive’ blogs), making it seem highly unlikely that they will continue to have Euro-American backing. Hard core nationalism in a multi-ethnic state like Ukraine can only lead to instability, the exact outcome Russia desires, and it can only be strengthened by the constant threat (and fact) of Russian intervention.

I love how #2 starts off with an attempt to minimize the presence of the neo-fascist element (a tacit acknowledgement of their presence) while simultaneously implying this fascist threat may become more dangerous if…what? If the instability “Russia desires” develops?

Just to be clear, I have not specifically claimed that the post-coup government in Ukraine is “dominated” by neo-fascists, but it’s a fact right-sector elements grabbed top cabinet positions in the vacuum, post-coup:

The ultra-right Svoboda Party has scored six major cabinet ministries in the government of Arseniy Yatsenyuk approved by the Ukrainian parliament on Thursday. Svoboda is an ultra-right, anti-Semitic, Russophobic party with its base of support in the Western Ukraine.

The most important post was claimed by a co-founder of Svoboda, Andriy Parubiy. He was named Secretary of the Security and National Defense Committee, which supervises the defense ministry and the armed forces.

What else does PW have to say?

The Left continues to breezily describe Yanukovych as the ‘democratic’ leader of Ukraine, ignoring the fact that since his election, Ukraine has markedly regressed in terms of fair and transparent elections. History is full of ‘democratic’ leaders who ended democracy once it was done serving their purposes. Some even act as though the Crimean referendum, which was conducted under military occupation without any outside observers and didn’t even present the status quo as an option on the ballot, has some kind of validity. Perhaps the biggest failing of Leftist analysis, though, is the consistent belief that somehow this is related to NATO’s eastward expansion, or that a reasonable solution can include preventing Ukraine from ever joining NATO. If one knows the history, this is absolute hogwash. Note that Russian intervention in neighboring countries has been a constant fact since the Napoleonic wars – and NATO membership has shown to be the strongest preventive measure of that outcome. Georgia has been invaded; Turkey has not. Ukraine has been invaded; Estonia, almost incalculably weaker, has not.

First, let me say PW is correct. It is quite breezy to remind interventionists that nations who at least go through the trouble of staging elections should have their respective processes respected. Of course that’s before I learned that Ukraine “has markedly regressed in terms of fair and transparent elections” I’m starting to think maybe that 5 billion wasn’t so well spent after all. Maybe we could get an accurate accounting of exactly where that money went?  I’m also concerned that maybe American democracy has also markedly regressed.  Does that mean violence against the US state is justified?  Think of that justification coming from sovereign citizens.

PW’s fundamental disagreement with critics like me centers on the expansion of NATO. His argument focuses on how the protection racket of NATO expansionism has, so far, worked for member nations, thanks to article 5. I think that’s a dangerously short-sighted measure of success.

I guess the failure of the left is so bad, PW considers John McCain almost sane. That’s something, and emphasizes what actually most concerns me.

How strong does Obama think he needs to look for midterms?

PW ends his lesson on the failure of the left with this:

I realize that calling for further expansion of NATO means I’m at odds with most Leftist foreign policy practitioners in the US, but for me, personal experience, the testimony of my friends and acquaintances, the demographic and statistical evidence, and the historical record all indicate that on this point, the Left has gotten it wrong.

I hope I am wrong.

by lizard

I think watching network news can be instructive. Take tonight’s NBC reporting on the latest escalations in Ukraine. The framing delivered by the anchor is brilliant: “The White House is warning Russia against further military intervention…” (emphasis added).

There is a huge, unjustified leap right from the get-go in how NBC is depicting the occupation of buildings in Eastern Ukraine. If these actions by anti-government protestors pro-Russian separatists represent further Russian military intervention, that clearly implies there is already some degree of previous or ongoing intervention occurring.

Besides, isn’t occupying buildings what the US validated as acceptable behavior when you don’t like the direction your country is taking?

Bernhard at Moon of Alabama is reporting there does seem to be some level of coordination happening in Eastern Ukraine:

Over the last days people in Donetsk city had occupied several government buildings and barricaded them. The Alfa police units, SWAT operators, sent to kick them out allegedly refused to do so. A 48 hour coup-government ultimatum to clear the buildings was not followed up on. It is possible that the coup-government has found no loyal force that would do its bidding.

Today several other cities in Donetsk oblast also saw extensive movements of anti coup-government groups. In Sloviansk some para-military group, some of them somewhat trained (video), broke into the main police station and raised the Russian flag. They allegedly handed out weapons to other protesters. The mayor of Sloviansk had announced her pro-Russian stand. Around the city street checkpoints of pro-Russian militia, pictures show some mid aged men, went up. Many of these people are said to be miners from the large Donetsk coal mines. They are on the look out for incoming military and police traffic from Kiev. Trained people from the Berkut riot police, dissolved by the coup-government, have joined the protesters.

In Mariupol and Druzhkovka protesters have blocked or seized the local city administration. Police in Kramatorskaya joined the protesters there. The city of Luhansk, where there are also protests, and Donetsk were today at least once buzzed by military planes.

I have seen no Donetsk pictures yet of “polite green men”, i.e. Russian military operators, like those seen in Crimea. The militia people occupying buildings in Donetsk oblast also seem to be less equipped than the local self-defense groups that could be seen in Crimea. While this operation in several Donetsk cities today seems somewhat coordinated there is no hint yet that Russia is behind this.

At the beginning of this month, the Polish Wolf wanted Intelligent Discontent readers to know what a few Ukrainians thought about being in a tug-of-war between Russia and the US/EU. Some of the comments, especially about nuclear weapons, were troubling, like this one:

“Otto von Bismark once said that any contract with Russia isn`t worth even the paper on which it was signed. So it`s normal for them to break diplomatic agreements, but is US and Britain`s role then better, when being the guarantors of our safety they just keep on talking and watching how our soldiers are being killed, journalists kidnapped and Tatars repressed? I`ll tell you more – such political impotence of the world`s greatest organizations – NATO & EU, provokes in Ukrainians` discussions more interest towards renovation of atomic weapon, because facing the “great bear” all alone we have to be ready to protect ourselves. That`s the most upsetting realization of what is happening now – NO WORLD WILL HELP.”

The comments were kept anonymous, so we’ll just have to trust PW that they did in fact come from Ukrainians.

For some more perspective, Andre Vltchek has been traveling through Ukraine and has a new article up about his conversations with Ukrainians. Here is one example:

Before reaching Odessa we leave the highway and drive northeast, towards Moldova and its small separatist enclave, called Transnistria.

There, the river Kuchurgan separates the Ukrainian town of Kuchurgan and the Transnistrian city of Pervomaisc.

I see no Russian tanks at Pervomaisc, no artillery. There is absolutely no military movement whatsoever, despite the countless Western mass media reports testifying (in abstract terms) to the contrary.

I cross the bridge on foot and ask the Transnistrian border guard, whether he has recently seen any foreign correspondents arriving from the United States or the European Union, attempting to cross the border and verify the facts. He gives me a bewildered look.

I watch beautiful white birds resting on the surface of the river, and then I return to Ukraine.

There, two ladies who run the ‘Camelot Bar’ served us the most delicious Russo/Ukrainian feast of an enormous borscht soup, and pelmeni.

Russian television station blasts away, and the two women cannot stop talking; they are frank, proud, and fearless. I turn on my film camera, but they don’t mind:

“Look what is happening in Kiev”, exclaims Alexandra Tsyganskaya, the owner of the restaurant. “The US and the West were planning this; preparing this, for months, perhaps years! Now people in Ukraine are so scared, most of them are only whispering. They are petrified. There is such tension everywhere, that all it would take is to light a match and everything will explode.”

Her friend, Evgenia Chernova, agrees: “In Odessa, Russian-speaking people get arrested, and they are taken all the way to Kiev. The same is happening in Kharkov, in Donetsk, and elsewhere. They call it freedom of speech! All Russian television channels are banned. What you see here is broadcasted from across the border. They treat people like cattle. But our people are not used to this: they will rebel, they will resist! And if they push them to the edge, it will be terrible!”

Ukraine is a powder keg, but it’s not the only one. Also getting some network news attention is an “unconfirmed” video of another alleged chemical attack in Syria.

It’s irrational to think Assad would choose this form of killing when he has other forms of killing at his disposal that don’t cross “red lines”. It’s too bad speculating otherwise means considering Operation Gladio style asymmetrical warfare deployed by US-backed opposition groups.

Why too bad? Because going there means going into the easily maligned realm of the ever-nebulous conspiracy theory.

In *BREAKING* conspiracy culture news, it appears those of us who make our little trips into this dislocating space have some interesting company, as outed by Gawker in a piece titled The Astounding Conspiracy Theories of Wall Street Genius Mark Gorton.

Seriously, because unlike crazy anonymous bloggers like myself, this guy isn’t a “crackpot”.

Mark Gorton is a prominent financier and a respected entrepreneur. He founded the music sharing site Limewire, and he runs Tower Research, a famed high-frequency trading firm. Gorton also believes that the “ruthless” secret cabal that assassinated JFK and planned 9/11 could be coming to kill his family.

Mark Gorton does not have a reputation as a crackpot. Quite the opposite. He’s been favorably profiled in the New York Times for his business acumen and charitable deeds. His experience as the head of Limewire—which disrupted the music industry and then lost a $100 million lawsuit as a result—was closely followed by the press. And when Michael Lewis’s blockbuster new book about high frequency trading was published recently, prominent media outlets turned to Gorton to learn what HFT firms are really like. The Huffington Post even dubbed him “the new face of Wall Street.” He is a very respected and very wealthy man.

This week, we were forwarded documents that Gorton was sending out to employees at Tower Research. These documents—embedded at the bottom of this post—are essays by Mark Gorton, laying out his theories on the secret high-level murderous criminal “Cabal” that is responsible for, among other things, the JFK and RFK assassinations, the presidential careers of the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama, the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 plot, and the murder of countless witnesses, politicians, and journalists who sought to expose them, including Sen. Paul Wellstone and even Hunter S. Thompson. Everything, according to Gorton, has been an inside job.

It is really something.

I’d say so.

Mark Tokarski made a connection in a recent post I personally found intriguing because I’m fascinated by Hollywood and the strange tentacles lurking beneath the lucrative engines of our popular culture.

The post should be read in full because it’s too packed with details to excerpt, and this post is already long enough. I’ll simply say it has to do with the possible involvement of Woody Harrelson’s dad in the JFK assassination.

For anyone curious about the dark side of Hollywood, Dave McGowan’s Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon will be on sale starting April 30th. I’ve already read much of the material, and it’s absolutely fascinating.

The end of April is an appropriate time for release. This is a month heavy with death. Shootings, like the 2nd Ft Hood tragedy—and a new twist, a mass-stabbing in a high school outside Pittsburgh, correlate with increased rates of suicide in spring and early summer. For more information about misconceptions regarding suicide, like the concern that talking to someone openly about suicide will somehow contribute to the likelihood of them doing it, you can start here.

April is also National Poetry Month, and I really need to be more consistent in featuring poetic material, so I’ll end this long post with the first four lines of Eliot’s The Wasteland, first published in 1922:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

by lizard

In a bipartisan move that further destroys American credibility on the world stage, Congress has thrown the Headquarter Agreement between the UN and the USofA, signed in 1947, out the window (NYT) in order to please AIPAC and blow up the Iran talks. From the NYT link:

Although the United States is obliged, as the host of the United Nations, to provide foreign diplomats with access, the State Department has asserted that American law permits it to deny visas to those deemed a threat to national security or American policy, categories that can be broadly interpreted.

What’s that I hear? Is it the benevolent voice of benign empire that Pat Williams apparently hears?

The United States has, with far too many obvious and tragic exceptions, tried to avoid unjustified interference in the affairs of other nations although there has always been an assertive minority of saber-rattlers among our citizenry and we have too often elected presidents who have been quick to the trigger. But in the end we have made our mistakes trying to defend and not dampen freedom.

When President John F. Kennedy announced, “I am a Berliner,” he was expressing the belief that Americans are citizens of the world – just as surely as were the ancient Romans. Ours is the benevolent voice of benign empire. Unlike either the Roman or British Empires ours encourages law above power. We are engaged not in consumption or the adjustment of national borders but rather with civil mission. “Watchmen on the walls of freedom,” Kennedy called it. America accepts the obligation of a powerful and free people to assist others around the world with purity of purpose and without the constant calculation of self-interest.

I literally feel nauseous reading propaganda like this. When JC first brought my attention to this disgusting example of American Exceptionalism, I had to read it several times just to be sure the patriarch of Montana Democrats, Pat Williams, actually spouted this insanity.

For a different perspective regarding the increasingly desperate behavior of our benign malignant empire, Paul Craig Roberts has a piece making the rounds that asks a provocative question: Is the US or the World Coming to an End? Here’s an excerpt:

Across many fronts, Washington is emerging in the world’s eye as duplicitous, untrustworthy, and totally corrupt. A Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuting attorney, James Kidney used the occasion of his retirement to reveal that higher ups had squelched his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other “banks too big to fail,” because his SEC bosses were not focused on justice but “on getting high-paying jobs after their government service” by protecting the banks from prosecution for their illegal actions.

The US Agency for International Development has been caught trying to use social media to overthrow the government of Cuba.

This audacious recklessness comes on top of Washington’s overthrow of the Ukrainian government, the NSA spying scandal, Seymour Hersh’s investigative report that the Sarin gas attack in Syria was a false flag event arranged by NATO member Turkey in order to justify a US military attack on Syria, Washington’s forcing down Bolivian President Evo Morales’ presidential plane to be searched, Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” the misuse of the Libyan no-fly resolution for military attack, and on and on. Essentially, Washington has so badly damaged other countries’ confidence in the judgment and integrity of the US government that the world has lost its belief in US leadership. Washington is reduced to threats and bribes and increasingly presents as a bully.

There is much more in the article worth reading, including comments about 9/11 which will conveniently allow people to dismiss his whole piece if they want to remain in denial about the rogue actions of our dead democracy.

For those people, they can read the empty threats coming from politicians like Pat Williams, who ends his opinion piece with this:

Perhaps, just perhaps, the nations of the world will adopt responsibility and respect toward neighbors with the understanding that watchful United Nations, NATO and U.S. military forces are ever present just over the horizon.

Every empire has an expiration date. That is something history teaches us. And no empire has been immune. People who deny that historical fact in preference of the dangerous delusions of American Exceptionalism are leading us to increasingly disastrous confrontations.

by lizard

Wall Street has corrupted its regulators and when Obama says he’s going to do something about it, he’s lying. This isn’t news, but it is an important reality to revisit periodically.

James Kidney, a retiring SEC trial lawyer, decided to clearly state what many already know: the SEC is a “Bankster turnpike“. From Bloomberg:

The SEC has become “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors,” Kidney said, according to a copy of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg News. “On the rare occasions when enforcement does go to the penthouse, good manners are paramount. Tough enforcement, risky enforcement, is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening.”

Kidney said his superiors were more focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service than on bringing difficult cases. The agency’s penalties, Kidney said, have become “at most a tollbooth on the bankster turnpike.”

In reporting on this moment of honesty from a SEC insider, Eric Zeusse’s piece at Counterpunch reminds us of Obama’s empty rhetoric:

Kidney’s speech said that his superiors did not “believe in afflicting the comfortable and powerful.”

Referring to the agency’s public-relations tactic of defending its prosecution-record by use of what he considered to be misleading statistics, Kidney said, “It’s a cancer” at the SEC.

Two recent studies have provided additional depth to Kidney’s assertions, by showing that Obama and his Administration had lied when they promised to prosecute Wall Street executives who had cheated outside investors, and deceived homebuyers, when creating and selling mortgage-backed securities for sale to investors throughout the world.

President Obama personally led in this lying.

On May 20, 2009, at the signing into law of both the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, Obama said: “This bill nearly doubles the FBI’s mortgage and financial fraud program, allowing it to better target fraud in hard-hit areas. That’s why it provides the resources necessary for other law enforcement and federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the SEC to the Secret Service, to pursue these criminals, bring them to justice, and protect hardworking Americans affected most by these crimes. It’s also why it expands DOJ’s authority to prosecute fraud that takes place in many of the private institutions not covered under current federal bank fraud criminal statutes — institutions where more than half of all subprime mortgages came from as recently as four years ago.”

Then, in the President’s 24 January 2012 State of the Union Address, he said: “Tonight, I’m asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. (Applause.) This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans. Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy.”

However, two years later, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued on 13 March 2014 its “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud,” and reported that Obama’s promises to prosecute turned out to be just a lie. DOJ didn’t even try; and they lied even about their efforts. The IG found: “DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest criminal threat in its lowest crime category. Additionally, we found mortgage fraud to be a low priority, or not [even] listed as a priority, for the FBI Field Offices we visited.” Not just that, but, “Many Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) informed us about underreporting and misclassification of mortgage fraud cases.” This was important because, “Capturing such information would allow DOJ to … better evaluate its performance in targeting high-profile offenders.”

Recently High Frequency Trading (HFT) has gotten some media scrutiny. There was another opportunity to scrutinize HFT after the Flash Crash on May 6th, 2010, but the obvious corruption of regulators ensures there are no serious threats to raking in the cash, no matter how risky strategies like HFT continue to be.

So the New York Times will write nice articles describing why interest in a tax has been “revived”, but I suspect the reason this sensible populist tax is getting some pre-midterm election attention is so candidates can stump on it then do not a goddamn thing about it in office. From the NYT:

It’s not every day that you find a fan club for new taxes, especially among economists and legal experts.

But a burst of outrage in recent days generated by Michael Lewis’s new book about the adverse consequences of high-frequency trading on Wall Street has revived support in some quarters for a tax on financial transactions, with backers arguing that a tiny surcharge on trades would have many benefits.

“It kills three birds with one stone,” said Lynn A. Stout, a professor at Cornell Law School, who has long followed issues of corporate governance and securities regulation. “From a public policy perspective, it’s a no-brainer.”

Not only would the tax reduce risk and volatility in the market, Professor Stout said, but it would also raise much-needed revenue for public coffers while making it modestly more expensive to engage in a practice that brings little overall economic benefit.

Sounds great, doesn’t it. But who believes there’s a real chance that common sense can translate to political policy, especially when that policy is specifically designed to take one of the money-making toys from the dangerous brats on Wall Street?

Instead, we need to remember that the current administration consistently lies about what it intends to do for political gain, and by remembering those lies maybe we can avoid falling for future lies from presumptive candidates, like Hillary Clinton, who will continue to wield the wealth of the .01% to protect their ill-gotten gains from the pitchforks.

by lizard

Journalists vs. Bloggers: a profession scrapping with unpaid information insurgents. Maybe Congress should spend some time defining which forms of media deserve special protection. Chuck Schumer thinks it’s a good idea, and he’s a Democrat, so what is there to worry about?

The bill’s protections would apply to a “covered journalist,” defined as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.

It would apply to student journalists or someone with a considerable amount of freelance work in the last five years. A federal judge also would have the discretion to declare an individual a “covered journalist” who would be granted the privileges of the law.

The bill also says that information is only privileged if it is disseminated by a news medium, described as “newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, news agency, news website, mobile application or other news or information service (whether distributed digitally or otherwise); news program, magazine or other periodical, whether in print, electronic or other format; or thorough television or radio broadcast … or motion picture for public showing.”

While the definition covers traditional and online media, it draws the line at posts on Twitter, blogs or other social media websites by non-journalists.

I wonder why such protections are needed. Could it be the Obama administration is hostile toward journalists?

Today the Committee to Protect Journalists unveiled a detailed, sober assessment of press freedom in the United States during President Obama’s tenure. The report concluded that far from fulfilling his campaign promise to improve transparency, the president has instead presided over an unprecedented campaign to contain leaks and to control media coverage of government operations.

The fact that the CPJ issued the report at all underscores how hostile official policy has been to journalists. While the CPJ has reported on press freedoms in countries around the world since the early 1980s, this is its first investigation focused on the United States. Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, wrote the report, with input from several dozen Washington journalists, media advocates and former government officials.

Downie told The Nation he was most surprised by the unanimity of those reporters about the ways the administration has made their jobs more difficult. The level of specificity the many journalists were able to provide convinced him that the problems were pervasive and exceptional. “The Obama administration’s aggressive war on leaks and its determined efforts to control information that the news media needs to hold the government accountable for its actions are without equal since the Nixon administration,” he said at a press conference this morning.

Locally, the media’s clumsy control of information looks like this. In this local space, progressive bloggers can lament about the effects of vulture capitalism.

It’s a completely different ball game when Seymour Hersh continues to be quarantined to the London Review of Books for bombshell disclosures like possible Turkish involvement in the Sarin attack that nearly triggered a hot US intervention in Syria.

For us bloggers who entertain false flag provocateur possibilities, Hersh’s exemplary journalistic efforts provide a much-appreciated validation of learned skepticism:

The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

I don’t blame “covered journalists” for getting included in the Free Flow of Information Act. Good for them. I hope they can comfortably snuggle in beneath that narrowly defined umbrella.

And let the blogging fringe just carry on flapping in the wind.

First Shots

by lizard

Yesterday I finally took out my Ruger for some target practice. A friend who actually knows what he’s doing took me to the Deer Creek Shooting Center in East Missoula. I had a blast (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Earlier in the day I went to Sportsmen Warehouse to get some ear muffs, glasses and ammo. I asked a guy at the counter what the best kind of ammo to get for a Ruger Mark III, and he kind of gave me this look like I was crazy or stupid, then said basically whatever kind of .22 rounds you can find. Since I’m new with all this, I didn’t realize how insane the consumer demand for ammo still is. Coincidentally, I just ran across this Missoulian article about a half hour ago on Twitter. Here’s a snip:

Ammunition manufacturers, such as ATK in Lewiston have been hounded so frequently from consumers and media, they’re posting FAQs about ammo shortages on their websites.

Like other companies, ATK referred The Spokesman-Review’s interview request to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Mike Bazinet, NSSF public affairs director, said he’s fielded about 100 ammunition-related media queries in the past month.

“The main questions?” he said: “What’s the cause of the ammo shortage? Is it abating?

Bazinet dismisses rumors that the federal Department of Homeland Security has been stocking up and hoarding ammunition.

“A federal report from the Government Accountability Office two months ago said DHS purchases actually are lower than in the past,” he said.

Recent news about the U.S. Postal Service stockpiling ammo was blown out of proportion on the Internet, he said.

“It was for a small law enforcement arm of postal inspectors, not for mail carriers,” he said, noting the purchases were insignificant to the market.

Bazinet said the bottom line for ammunition shortages is consumer demand. Increased sales triggered even more demand as shooters stockpiled as much ammunition as they could get their hands on, he said.

After probably realizing I was a total novice, the guy pointed me to the few boxes of ammo they had left on the shelves.

Later, at the range, my new Ruger didn’t perform well. My friend had two ideas about what the problem might be. First he thought maybe it was the ammo. The bullets just weren’t feeding into the chamber smoothly from the clip, and it looked like maybe the tip of the bullets were slowing the action of the spring in the clip. As he fiddled, he was able to fire off a few rounds, which led to his next thought that maybe the Ruger was so new that its guts were stiff.

Since the first attempts at shooting my pistol weren’t going well, my friend offered to let me try his .44 revolver. I was hesitant, but relented and damn. That is not a caliber of handgun I’d be interested in owning, but it certainly put my Ruger in context.

After more attempts my Ruger seemed to loosen up a bit and would fire multiple rounds, but the action from the clip still feels a little hinky. Or maybe it’s the ammo. I’m not sure.

I’ve obviously still got a whole lot to learn, but I’m glad to finally start demystifying a tool only rendered dangerous by the various abilities and intentions of its relative users.


In today’s edition of “Views From Inside the Fishbowl”, we have retired Congressman and professor Pat Williams weighing in on the putsch in Ukraine, and the subsequent overwhelming vote of Crimeans’ desire for self-determination to return to the Russian Federation.

Seems that  it is this sort of world view that separates those that are immersed in American propaganda and empire building, from those who are not:

“…That word “empire” applies to only one nation, the United States. We reject it, of course, because it smacks of imperialism with which we are entirely uncomfortable. Our destiny, as Americans see it, is to be a welcoming beacon of freedom….

Ours is the benevolent voice of benign empire… America accepts the obligation of a powerful and free people to assist others around the world with purity of purpose and without the constant calculation of self-interest….

Perhaps, just perhaps, the nations of the world will adopt responsibility and respect toward neighbors with the understanding that watchful United Nations, NATO and U.S. military forces are ever present just over the horizon.”

Read the whole thing to understand what has happened to Democrat’s vision of foreign policy. Williams deftly outlines what will become known as the Obama Doctrine: “the benevolent voice of benign empire.”

Joseph Goebbels would be proud to see how his writings have reached across time and space to influence empire builders in the 21st century, and the concepts taught to a new generation of youth.

by lizard

In the ongoing debate regarding the role of the US in destabilizing other countries, the AP broke a significant story about how the US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest:

In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company’s ties to the U.S. government.

McSpedon didn’t work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press and multiple interviews with people involved in the project, the plan was to develop a bare-bones “Cuban Twitter,” using cellphone text messaging to evade Cuba’s strict control of information and its stranglehold restrictions over the Internet. In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo — slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.

If USAID has been used to destabilize Cuba, what else lurks beneath the veneer of humanitarian aid? Like in Ukraine?

As the United States readies $1 billion in loan guarantees to the new government in Ukraine, along with even more aid for reforming elections and cleaning up corruption, one thing is clear: The public is unlikely to know where that money is going for some time, if ever.

Since 1992, the U.S. has sent $3 billion to $5 billion in aid to Ukraine, with only cursory public disclosure. The U.S. State Department operates an online database,, but names of foreign recipients are often left out, and entire sections are blank. Furthermore, the disclosure often comes long after the money has been distributed.

“It is incredibly hard to find this kind of information,” Nicole Valentinuzzi, communications manager for Publish What You Fund, an international organization promoting transparency for foreign aid.

In post-coup Ukraine, things are getting dicey. A “far-right activist” was gunned down by police last month and the Daily Beast is openly wondering if Ukraine can control their far-right ultra-nationalists.

For more background, The Nation has a piece titled Seven Decades of Nazi Collaboration: America’s Dirty Little Ukraine Secret. Apparently, for the US, supporting fascists and Nazis is nothing new.

For a more local take, Intelligent Discontent’s perennial cheerleader of US interventions, the Polish Wolf, has decided to feature anonymous comments from Ukrainians regarding the post-coup crisis they are now experiencing. The gist? The comments PW cultivated express dismay at being abandoned, a desire for nuclear weapons, and admiration for sociopaths like John McCain.

*I had initially included the comments featured in PW’s post here, for the convenience of our readers, but Don made an issue out of it, so you’ll have to go over to his place to read them.

by lizard

In America, if you are a DuPont heir, you can rape your 3 year old daughter and get no jail time:

A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he “will not fare well” in prison.

In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.

Richards is the great grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, a chemical baron.

Also in America, if you are a poor black woman without a home or child care, you will definitely get arrested and spend time in jail for multiple counts of felony child abuse for leaving your kids in a car during a job interview:

A mom in Arizona is now facing child abuse charges for allegedly leaving her two young children in a hot car while she interviewed for a job, reports CBS affiliate KPHO.

Shanesha Taylor, 35, mother of the 2-year-old and 6-month-old kids, was arrested on March 20. She now faces two felony counts of child abuse.

According to Scottsdale police, a witness heard a child crying inside a Dodge Durango that was parked in an office parking lot around 12:30 p.m. The witness informed authorities that the vehicle was parked directly in the sun. KPHO reports that the witness told police the car’s engine was off, the doors were closed and the windows were only slightly opened.

Police arrived on the scene and were able to get the children out of the vehicle. Officers said Taylor returned about 45 minutes after they were informed of the situation and told them that she did not have anyone to watch her kids while she went on the interview, according to the station.

“She was upset. This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job. Obviously not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation,” said Scottsdale Police Sergeant Mark Clark.

I really can’t imagine a more obscene class-based juxtaposition than this.

While my visceral reaction to the piece of shit DuPont heir lowlife who the judge thought “will not fare well” in prison is to hope he will someday get what he deserves, I’m not sure extended solitary confinement in an American prison is a horror I would wish even on the most depraved members of our society.

Yesterday Democracy Now ran a piece on the awful abuses of solitary confinement and its torturous impact on the disproportionate amount of mentally ill inmates in our prison system.

In that same hour Democracy Now examined the police situation in Albuquerque, focusing on the lethal shooting of a homeless veteran.

Montana is not immune to the crisis of the US prison system. The ACLU and Disability Rights Montana have raised major concerns about how people with mental illness are being treated in Montana prisons. Here is a lengthy quote from the link:

The ACLU of Montana, on behalf of its client Disability Rights Montana, is challenging the treatment of prisoners with mental illness at Montana State Prison and the Montana State Hospital. A year-long investigation at those institutions revealed a pattern at Montana State Prison of withholding medication, misdiagnosing prisoners with a long history of mental illness, and punishing them for behavior caused by their mental illness. Prisoners with mental illness are routinely subjected to months or years of solitary confinement and “behavior modification plans” that deprive them of clothing, working toilets, bedding and proper food. This serves only to worsen their illness and cause needless suffering.

“In our investigation of the prison and its practices, we have uncovered shocking and inhumane treatment of people who are mentally ill,” said Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, executive director of Disability Rights Montana.

Constitutional violations and poor mental health practices at Montana State Prison addressed in our letter to the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Health and Human Services include:

  • A troubling pattern of the prison psychiatrist meeting for just minutes with prisoners with mental illness before finding that they are “faking it,” in spite of significant histories of mental illness;
  • Refusing to provide prisoners with necessary psychiatric medications;
  • Routine imposition of solitary confinement and/or “behavior modification plans” depriving prisoners of clothing, bedding, human contact, a working toilet and proper food as punishment for behaviors caused by mental illness;
  • “Wellness checks” in solitary confinement that consist of a weekly knock at the cell door where any conversation can be overheard by guards and other prisoners;
  • Inadequate mental health staff and training;
  • and Providing just 12 mental health beds in a prison with more than 275 prisoners with mental illness.

In addition, people sentenced “Guilty But Mentally Ill,” and sent to the Montana State Hospital for treatment are routinely transferred to Montana State Prison because Montana State Hospital staff does not want to treat problem patients or they need beds for other patients. These very ill patients have no real opportunity to challenge these transfers from a hospital setting to the prison where mental health care is virtually nonexistent and they are punished for their mental illness.

“This is about a prison mental health system that is making prisoners sicker,” said Anna Conley, ACLU of Montana staff attorney. “What is happening at the Montana State Prison and the Montana State Hospital is not only illegal; it goes against common sense. We should be providing mental health care that helps these prisoners rather than treating them in ways that exacerbate their condition.”

It’s too bad it takes lawsuits to bring these abuses to the attention of the public. It’s also too bad Missoula wasted so much time and energy on ordinances (sponsored by the alleged progressive, Caitlin Copple) to ban sitting on sidewalks instead of examining more substantive fixes to the systemic failures that will continue without significant intervention.

Pointing fingers at jail staff and law enforcement ignores the many failures that occur before police involvement and incarceration. I’m actually hopeful that good people within law enforcement and the corrections system are invested in trying to improve how they react to people in crisis.

But it’s not just on them to make improvements. It’s on all of us.


It was just a matter of time until General Walsh’s campaign website blog supporter, Intelligent Discontent, got caught with its pants down trying to further its case against dem primary opponents Dirk Adams and John Bohlinger. Seems that Pogie, in his vacation retreat, didn’t bother to find the facts, instead he relied on unverified second hand reports about Dirk Adams’ stances.

Here’s what Adams had to say about Pogreba and Intelligent Discontent:

“This is the stuff of Fox News and worse. 

I have to get back to reality now.” 

I only bring this information up because Don is so concerned with truthiness and all. Oh, and he attempted to bad mouth us here at 4&20 in his post. Or maybe this is Pogie’s idea of a good April Fool’s joke?

Full transcript of his blog post and Dirk’s response after the jump. Continue Reading »

by lizard

This post is actually number 701, and boy howdy, it’s packed with links. By my count, I’ve written 152 poetry posts in the years I’ve been blogging. Some of the posts feature my own work and many of them highlight other writers. There’s truly something for everyone in this accumulation of poetic content.

The poetry posts don’t often generate many comments. One reason may be the sense that poetry is an inaccessible art form that requires a college professor to decode. Since attending UM to get my degree in creative writing, I’ve always felt a need to push back against that sentiment, because I think it keeps people from even trying to read and think about poetry.

I may be biased, but I think poetry is a vital part of the human experience. For me, there is a profound sense of satisfaction when lines arrive and fall into place. I can’t imagine not being able to write—when I go too long without writing, I get a bit twitchy.

I am very grateful to have this forum to push poetry on y’all. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more! Continue Reading »

by lizard

Robert Gibbs didn’t mince his words last month regarding the distinct possibility of Democrats losing the Senate. If that happens then, according to Gibbs, “turn out the lights, because the party is over.

For some reason Gibbs thinks Obama needs to do more to raise money in order to make the midterms more competitive. But what Gibbs doesn’t seem to be including in his calculation is the toxic presence of Obama for many Democrats, especially in states like Montana, where both the president and his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, remains very unpopular.

But wait, isn’t the ACA celebrating 7 million “consumers” coerced into the private insurance market? Yes, and I’m sure there are some Democrats letting out a few sighs of relief. But there are also folks who still understand what a giant scam the ACA debacle is, and the popular resistance against Obama’s signature legislation is far from being pacified (h/t problembear). From the link:

As Kevin Zeese and I wrote last fall, the ACA is one of the biggest insurance scams in history. It has made the already complex American health system, which spends over a third of health care dollars on insurance-created bureaucracy rather than care, much more complicated. It is based on principles that are the opposite of what are proven to be effective. Instead of being universal, everybody automatically enrolled as we did for seniors when Medicare started in 1965 and as most other industrialized nations do, we created a conservative, means-tested system that depends on individual income.

And instead of creating a single standard of care, so that everyone has access to the health care they need, the ACA locked into law a tiered system of coverage based on different metals: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Though they may sound good, it turns out that the upper tier plans are not any better than the lower tier plans in terms of what services are covered or where patients can go for care. The major difference is whether a person chooses to pay more up front in higher premiums and pay less when they need health care (upper tier plans) or chooses to gamble on staying healthy and pay less up front, risking higher out-of-pocket costs if they need care (lower tier plans). This is essentially a pay-now-or-pay-later scheme.

And it is a scheme, because there are no guarantees that people who have insurance will be protected from financial ruin if they have a serious health problem. It is essential to remember that nothing about the basic business model of insurance companies has changed. They exist to make a profit and they are very good at it. While they complain about the ACA, because its regulations require more work on their end to find ways around them, it has been very lucrative for them. Health insurance stock values have doubled since the law passed in 2010.

One of their major work-arounds is the use of narrow and ultra-narrow provider networks to discourage patients with pre-existing conditions from buying their plans and leave patients footing more of the bill. Narrow networks exclude at least 30% of local hospitals and ultra-narrow networks exclude at least 70%. This means that if the local cancer center isn’t included in a plan, then people with cancer are unlikely to buy that plan. To make it worse, it’s difficult for patients to determine what providers are included in different plans because the information on the insurance exchange websites has been found to be wrong half the time.

The reason for the narrow networks is that when patients don’t go to an approved health provider, they bear most or all of the costs. The limit on how much money people can be required to spend in addition to premiums doesn’t apply when patients go out of network (and the limit was removed for 2014 anyway). In practice, if someone develops a serious health condition and the hospital or health professional that treats the condition is not in their network, they will have to go without care or find a way to pay for it. And if a person has a serious accident and is taken to a hospital that is out of network, the patient will again bear the total cost. Buying insurance is a health care crap shoot.

Not everything is doom and gloom for Democrats. Losing the Senate could actually be a silver lining in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 playbook. To explain the counterintuitive hypotheticals, Dave Weigel at Slate has compiled the potential positives:

- The new GOP Congress would be unable to keep a lid on itself. On day one you’d see a Benghazi select committee (which, the theory goes, would diffuse the scandal with overcoverage) and a fight to repeal the ACA. Republicans like John Cornyn and Jim Jordan, people in positions of power, have said that a Republican Congress would hand Obama a budget that defunded Obamacare, on the theory that winning an election and passing the thing in both houses would fatally weaken his hand.

- Clinton would get to run against Congress. “It would be much harder to diffuse blame for a ‘Do-Nothing Congress,’ ” argues Norm Ornstein. Republican presidential candidates would have to triangulate between Clinton and their own Congress, as George W. Bush did in 2000. (That was sort of the point of “compassionate conservatism.”)

- Democratic voters, who are horribly lazy about midterm voting, would be newly energized to take back what was lost. Democratic fundraising for Clinton and the 2016 Democratic Senate team would surge—useful, because Democrats want to win seats lost in the 2010 wave, in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Because I’ve gotten way too cynical for party politics, I asked for some feedback in my last post about what, specifically, would be bad about Democrats losing the Senate. Turner had this to say:

I worry that if the R’s take the Senate, they’ll block appointments. Especially if a SC Justice dies.

Weigel also addresses this point in the context of a Hillary 2016 run:

- Let’s assume it doesn’t matter if a new Supreme Court nomination happens and the Senate contains 51 Democrats or 51 Republicans. Last year’s filibuster reforms did not lower the vote threshold for SCOTUS nominees, but there’s no precedent for filibustering Supreme Court nominees anyway. That’s not a problem for Democrats. The problem would be a blockade on less-famous nominees for all manner of DOJ, EPA, and Treasury, etc., nominees. It doesn’t advantage Hillary Clinton’s vote-getting in swing states if, come 2016, the Democrats are unable to staff up the Civil Rights Division of DOJ. If the administration can’t get its nominees in place, it’s going to exercise more executive power. Voters don’t always like that—and that’s before a Republican Congress and presidential field calls it tyranny and demands to know whether Hillary Clinton would behave this way.

The problem with all this is the short-sighted focus on the next election cycle. This skewed perspective is what ensures long-term sustainability of our broken economic/political systems will never be substantively addressed.

by lizard

I had an exchange with someone on Twitter I found intriguing. Dennis Taylor (@dmt4mt) issued the following tweet:

My children’s generation is ready, willing and able. Their turn.

To which I replied:

@dmt4mt you mean they have to fix your generation’s failure?

Taylor’s response?

@madpoet19 So cynical. I thought you were a poet.

Taylor’s assumption that cynicism and poetry are somehow mutually exclusive surprised me, but I shouldn’t be surprised. I think most people who appreciate poetry appreciate it for its inspiration; its enrichment of the human experience with well-crafted language, creating images and metaphorical juxtapositions that expand our understanding of the world.

For me, I’m drawn to a type of poetry that doesn’t shy away from darker realities, like Allen Ginsberg’s America. I want grit and bile and an unwavering, naked eye examining the harsh underbelly of the human experience.

April was designated National Poetry Month back in 1996, and I think it really is the most fitting month to celebrate poetry. April specifically, and spring more generally, is a time of rebirth. Flowers are blooming and songbirds are singing.

But spring has a dark side. It’s the season of new military campaigns and an increased rate of suicide. From the link:

The suicide rate does not peak during the holidays, and the media should stop saying it does, according to a report released Tuesday by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. In fact, the suicide rate is highest in spring and summer. The holiday suicide-spike myth persists because it has a convenient narrative: Lonely people become despondent around Christmastime. So why do people kill themselves in the spring?

Possibly because they interact more. Doctors first observed in the 1820s that suicide rates spike during late spring. Researchers have since postulated and tested all sorts of explanations for the global phenomenon, making this one of the most studied questions in psychiatry.

Later this week, I’m going to put up a post with links to all the poetry posts I’ve written. This will be the 3rd year I’ve posted a compilation of links, and this year that post will be my 700th post.

For this post, I’m going to feature a work in progress titled SPRING BREAK. You can read it below the fold. Thank you for reading and commenting, everyone. It means a lot to me. Continue Reading »

by lizard

I’m tired of doing the dirty work for Republicans by poking holes in strong, honorable candidates like John Walsh. Montana Democrats have shown how wise they are by throwing tradition out the window and backing Walsh in the primary. Control of the senate is up for grabs, so Democrats will understandably pull out all the stops to promote the guy who has the best chance of getting the necessary campaign cash to be viable.

Some people on the lonely left may be tempted to support Dirk Adams in the primary race. They are fools. Don’t think that just because Democrat blogger Don Pogreba is vacationing in Iceland that he can’t lay down a political smack-job. Heed his wisdom, or tempt his wrath. The choice is yours.

Listen people, the Keystone XL pipeline is inevitable, so why oppose it? Opposing job creation doesn’t poll well outside the emoprog echo chamber. I guess those on the left can hold tight to their cherished principles as Daines helps Republicans snatch control of the Senate and impose their radical tea party agenda. And if that happens, we know who to blame.

The best bet for improving America’s future prospects of maintaining our role of providing positive global leadership is to set aside those burdensome principles and support hand-picked establishment candidates, regardless of any misgivings one may have.

Not convinced? Neither am I.

April fools.

by lizard

What does a Montana legislator’s alleged attack on his 4 year old daughter and estranged wife have in common with the alleged plans of Turkey to use a false flag attack to justify retaliation against Syria? Answer: the media’s power to omit.

Before jumping on the bandwagon of condemnation against the Billings Gazette editor for choosing NOT to include the Jason Priest affidavit on its website, I’d like to say I find the practice of publically splashing pre-trial documentation across newspapers and websites to be deeply troubling.

I had a friend last summer accused of domestic abuse, and the police report became a Missoulian story. After spending over a month in jail (he couldn’t afford bail and was too traumatized to remember phone numbers of friends) the case fell apart because the truth of a spurned partner lying about the alleged attack came out. Was there a follow up story from the Missoulian clearing his name? Of course not.

That said, since the Billings Gazette has no problem publically proclaiming the alleged misdeeds of your average Joe, the editor’s decision to abstain in the case of Jason Priest absolutely warrants the attention of media watchdogs like Jim Romensko.

Local omission by local media is one thing (I don’t have a lot of respect for local media, especially after being recently outed by a local reporter to someone close to the Mayor’s office). National media omission of a leak regarding a false flag attack on a NATO nation is an entirely different creature.

Zerohedge is the source I’ll link to for the leak that Turkey planned a false flag attack designed to trigger retaliation against Syria. I passed over RT, Press TV, and Info Wars, if that tells you anything.

Here is some of the confirmed planning of the false flag event:

Ahmet Davutolu: “Prime Minister said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on Suleiman Shah Tomb) must be seen as an opportunity for us.”

Hakan Fidan: “I’ll send 4 men from Syria, if that’s what it takes. I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”

Feridun Sinirliolu: “Our national security has become a common, cheap domestic policy outfit.”

Ya?ar Güler: “It’s a direct cause of war. I mean, what’re going to do is a direct cause of war.”

Feridun Sinirolu: There are some serious shifts in global and regional geopolitics. It now can spread to other places. You said it yourself today, and others agreed… We’re headed to a different game now. We should be able to see those. That ISIL and all that jazz, all those organizations are extremely open to manipulation. Having a region made up of organizations of similar nature will constitute a vital security risk for us. And when we first went into Northern Iraq, there was always the risk of PKK blowing up the place. If we thoroughly consider the risks and substantiate… As the general just said…

Yaar Güler: Sir, when you were inside a moment ago, we were discussing just that. Openly. I mean, armed forces are a “tool” necessary for you in every turn.

Ahmet Davutolu: Of course. I always tell the Prime Minister, in your absence, the same thing in academic jargon, you can’t stay in those lands without hard power. Without hard power, there can be no soft power.

For a great analysis on how this bombshell has been reported by western media, please read this post from b at Moon of Alabama.

False flag is one of those terms that seems to signal content too conspiratorial to be taken seriously. It doesn’t seem to matter that there are historical precedents, like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which proves the effectiveness of deploying this useful tool of strategic escalation.

Thanks to our media, we don’t even have to burden ourselves with this false flag conversation, because most Americans will have no idea what the PM of Turkey is up to, just like most Americans had no fucking clue where Crimea was on the map before Hitler Putin invaded and annexed it.

Instead of conventional media informing its readers, it’s left to us (mostly) uncompensated bloggers to bring attention to what our media refuses to cover.


by lizard

Caitlin Copple is still getting criticism from a perennial attendee of city council meetings, Kandi Matthew-Jenkins. It all stems from how Copple chose to respond to a comment back in December, when her crusade to criminalize sitting on downtown sidewalks first got publicly debated. After Copple described the non-sitting action of a transient solicitor chasing a pregnant woman in downtown Missoula, a young man described his experiences growing up in Chicago, which he likened to a war zone, and contrasted the debate about solicitors to one being had by a bunch of privileged white people.

Caitlin Copple, seemingly offended at being referred to as white and privileged (she is), wanted to remind this young man that having a penis means he can’t understand the constant fear women experience while downtown, where the solicitors (with penises) roam freely, chasing pregnant women every chance they get.

Luckily for Copple, city attorney Jim Nugent says she’s in the clear:

In a March 18 legal opinion, however, city attorney Jim Nugent said Copple’s comments do not appear to be constitutional violations, and Matthew-Jenkins isn’t eligible to launch a recall attempt since she lives in a different ward than Copple.

“The city council member comments do not violate any discrimination law,” Nugent wrote. “The city council member did not refuse, withhold or deny anything from anyone based on their protected class status.”

Now the trick will be how to legally stifle Matthew-Jenkins from expressing her disdain for Copple.

Matthew-Jenkins, who comments frequently at council meetings, had voiced her complaints against Copple for weeks. Her strident tone and direct attack on Copple concerned some council members, including council president Marilyn Marler and councilman Alex Taft, who has cited a council rule that calls for order at the meetings.

The rules mandate decorum from council members, the mayor, staff and members of the public “to maintain a productive atmosphere and the integrity of governmental business.

“Comments may indicate a concern for an issue … (but) may not include use of loud, threatening or abusive language, ” reads a portion of the rules.

Matthew-Jenkins, though, said she never meant to intimidate Copple, and she said the Ward 4 representative isn’t “incapable of working hard.” At the same time, Matthew-Jenkins said she will not be deprived of her right to free speech.

If Copple is feeling threatened, I guess she is proving that threatening behavior is possible from people without penises.

by lizard

How can the unbelievably audacious story of what Wall Street CONTINUES TO GET AWAY WITH flit by with nary a blink from the citizenry? Media?

Who cares, it’s spring, so what if the hollow beasts of finance are once again burrowing their snouts in the public trough looking to insulate themselves from the next inevitable crisis. The link is another Michael Whitney piece examining The Economic Scam of the Century:

The leaders of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Tim Johnson (D., S.D.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), released a draft bill on Sunday that would provide explicit government guarantees on mortgage-backed securities (MBS) generated by privately-owned banks and financial institutions. The gigantic giveaway to Wall Street would put US taxpayers on the hook for 90 percent of the losses on toxic MBS the likes of which crashed the financial system in 2008 plunging the economy into the deepest slump since the Great Depression. Proponents of the bill say that new rules by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) –which set standards for a “qualified mortgage” (QM)– assure that borrowers will be able to repay their loans thus reducing the chances of a similar meltdown in the future. However, those QE rules were largely shaped by lobbyists and attorneys from the banking industry who eviscerated strict underwriting requirements– like high FICO scores and 20 percent down payments– in order to lend freely to borrowers who may be less able to repay their loans. Additionally, a particularly lethal clause has been inserted into the bill that would provide blanket coverage for all MBS (whether they met the CFPB’s QE standard or not) in the event of another financial crisis.

This legislation is of course supported by the president. If you want to see how the mainstream media depicts this scam, here’s an AP piece:

A plan to phase out government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and instead use mainly private insurers to backstop home loans has advanced in Congress.

The agreement by two key senators and a White House endorsement sent shares of Fannie and Freddie sinking Tuesday. Fannie stock fell $1.79, or more than 30 percent, to $4.03. Freddie dropped $1.48, or 26.8 percent, to $4.04.

The plan would create a new government insurance fund. Investors would pay fees in exchange for insurance on mortgage securities they buy. The government would become a last-resort loan guarantor.

“Last-resort loan guarantor” is one hell of a phrase. Thanks AP. And thank you, president Obama. Maybe this despicable servitude to Wall Street will finally open the eyes of Democrat supporters to the true nature of the enabling role Democrats play in our totally corrupt political system.

Shifting to our government’s unconstitutional snooping by the NSA, president Obama is asking Congress to fix the problem because we all know Congress is really good at passing constructive legislation to protect our constitutional rights. What isn’t getting a lot of media attention is the fact that Obama, if he wanted, could simply not re-authorize the bulk storage of our metadata. This program requires re-authorization every 90 days, so at the end of March Obama will sign off on another 90 days of our constitutional rights being violated by our government.

Thanks Obama!

Then there’s the continued posturing with Russia regarding the crisis in Ukraine. After Obama’s incredibly unhelpful depiction of Russia as a regional power, he laughably defended America’s credibility regarding the ongoing disaster that is Iraq, 11 years after Bush lied our country into one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our short history. The title of this Washington Post article is Obama gives Iraq war a more positive spin:

President Obama, whose presidential campaign in 2008 took off in large part because of his criticism of the Iraq war, on Wednesday used that war as a contrast to what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

Speaking in Brussels, Obama dismissed suggestions by Russia and its supporters that the Iraq war undercuts the United States’ credibility in criticizing Russia’s incursion into Crimea in Ukraine.

“It is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate – not just around the world, but in the United States as well,” Obama said. “I happened to oppose our military intervention there.”

Obama added: “But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.”

I don’t even know where to start with that comment. How about a list of attacks and violent deaths that occurred on just March 1st of this year:

At least 70 people were killed and 50 more were wounded in today’s attacks. Meanwhile, the United Nations, Iraqi government and Agence France-Presse released their casualty figures for February. All three found that more than 700 people were killed in Iraq during the month — not counting militants. Including those militants, Antiwar found that at least 1700 people were likely killed.

Near Falluja, security forces killed six militants. One child was killed and nine others were wounded during a shelling attack in nearby towns.

Gunmen killed two soldiers and wounded three more at a Khalidiya checkpoint. Four policemen were killed in a drive-by shooting.

A car bomb in Hit killed one person and wounded two more.

Security forces killled one militant and wounded two more in Ramadi.

West of Ramadi, seven gunmen were killed.

Outside of Anbar province:

Security forces killed 31 militants in southern Nineva province.

In Mosul, six militants were killed.

Three militants were killed in a clash in Latifiya. A sticky bomb wounded an officer in Latifiya.

A bomb killed three people and wounded 10 more in Tuz Khormato.

An I.E.D. in Baiji killed two soldiers and wounded four more.

A woman was killed in a double bombing in Balad Ruz that also left five women and a child wounded.

One patrolman was killed and three more were wounded in an I.E.D. blast in Shurqat.

A soldier’s body was found in Dibiss.

In Abu Saida, gunmen killed a civilian.

A bomb killed a military official in Hawija.

Six people were wounded in a blast in Baghdad. A kidnapped girl was rescued.

In Kirkuk, a rocket wounded a family of four.

This is the Iraq America has left behind after a decade of war based on lies, a war Obama only “ended” because Maliki refused to allow Obama to renegotiate Bush’s Status of Forces Agreement that held US forces to an established timeline of withdrawal.

The economy is in shambles, our constitutional rights are violated every day, and our foreign policy has reignited the cold war with Russia. Convincing Americans that Democrats aren’t as corrupt and dangerous as Republicans is going to be a hard sell.

by lizard

It’s funny to see a headline from Politico declaring The rich strike back because I think by “strike” the piece is referring to the continuing tantrums being thrown by the beneficiaries of obscene wealth disparity in America. Of course the tantrum includes a Nazi analogy:

In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, the rise of populists including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans — who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago — also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues.

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

Langone’s comments — sure to draw ire from those who find such comparisons to Nazi Germany insensitive — echo previous remarks from venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who likened the actions of some in the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Kristallnacht attacks on Jews in 1938. Perkins gave several interviews after the ensuing uproar, but he never really backed away from the comparison. And Langone showed no hesitancy in invoking the Nazis when describing current populist rhetoric.

To contrast the tantrums of wealth, Bill Moyers looks at a significant increase in homeless families in DC:

City officials didn’t see the surge coming. Last winter, DC placed 463 families in shelter. This year, the Department of Human Services tried to play it safe with a worst-case-scenario forecast of 10 percent more homeless families in shelter than last year, or 509. But already in November, 617 percent more families required shelter than in November 2012. There was no way the city could keep up.

With spring around the corner, the city’s requirement to house homeless residents seeking shelter will end, but the crisis itself will continue. And as the rec-center dwellers find themselves facing the street, there’s little consensus on why there are so many more homeless families this year, how we should be providing for them, or what’s to prevent the same thing from happening next winter.

Apparently DC has a seasonal requirement to house homeless families they struggled to meet this winter. Read the whole article for the personal story of what the homeless family shuffle means for actual people with names.

Then there’s this article about the homelessness crisis in Silicon Valley:

Not everyone is benefiting from Silicon Valley’s latest tech boom.

As rents soar, nearly 55% of Silicon Valley workers do not make the $90,000 necessary to support a family of four in the region. The area has the fifth-largest homeless population in the country, and in the past three years the problem has gotten much worse, according to the latest Silicon Valley Index.

If only the cost-savings of providing housing to the homeless was truly understood:

It is cheaper to give homeless people a home than it is to leave them on the streets.
That’s not just the opinion of advocates working to end homelessness, nor is it the opinion of homeless people themselves. It is a fact that has been borne out by studies across the country, from Florida to Colorado and beyond.

The latest analysis to back up this fact comes out of Charlotte, where researchers from the University of North Carolina Charlotte examined a recently constructed apartment complex that was oriented towards homeless people.

Moore Place opened in 2012 with 85 units. Each resident is required to contribute 30 percent of his or her income, which includes any benefits like disability, veterans, or Social Security, toward rent. The rest of the housing costs, which total approximately $14,000 per person annually, are covered by a mix of local and federal government grants, as well as private donors.

In the first year alone, researchers found that Moore Place saved taxpayers $1.8 million. These savings comes from improvements in two primary areas: health care and incarceration.

Gee, I wonder if a place like Missoula could alleviate the burden on ER’s and jail with this kind of housing?

by lizard

Pete Talbot is disappointed and disturbed that I would join the ranks of Republican gun enthusiasts, which he makes very clear with this comment:

I’m disappointed, liz. Joining the ranks of Gary Marbut? Seriously listening to Adam’s discourse on dropping methheads with a .22 hollowpoint v. a 9mm jacketed? Good company.

I’ve had whackos in my life, too, but I’m 60-years-old and never felt the need for a handgun. I’ve seen far more damage — suicides, accidental shootings, rage homicides — than legitimate acts of self defense.

What I find more disturbing is your comment on social and economic turmoil getting worse. You can buy an arsenal of weapons, move up some draw in the Bitterroot or Sanders County, and hole up. Or you can embrace your community, work with others to make things better and envision a world that has fewer guns rather than more.

While Pete did walk back his comment a bit, it’s that last paragraph I find the most intriguing. I’m going to assume Pete hasn’t read about this NASA-funded report about the potential for an “irreversible collapse” of our industrial civilization that specifically mentions resource exploitation and economic inequality between the wealthy elite and the rest of us as risk factors that have contributed to collapses in past complex societies, like the Han, Roman, and Mesopotamian empires. Here’s an excerpt:

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”

I wish I could just ignore the plausible nightmare scenarios where the social order breaks down and we are left to our own devices. Maybe I am just being paranoid. After all, I live in Missoula, and what can go wrong in our idyllic mountain college town, right?

After a lot of thought I completed the transaction yesterday and purchased a Ruger Mark III .22 caliber pistol. It took me about 20 minutes to fill out the paperwork. When I told my father, he told me it’s probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.

I have two young kids and what I just did dramatically increases the chance they will die in our home from a gun-related accident. The responsibility I have as a parent is tremendous.

I truly appreciate the feedback from readers about this decision, especially this comment from Nameless Range:

Hey lizard I think others gave you good advice and you’re going the right way with getting a 22.

I think it is important to recognize though that having a gun in your house increases the probability that your children will die due to a gun accident. We all like to think we are outliers but the statistics are pretty clear.

I have a gun in my house for self-defense and I have two small children. If you’re going to have one gun I think it is worth your while to put as much thought into the safe you will have that gun in as the gun itself. I have a quick safe which is a four button combo. Practicing getting your gun out of the safe Safely and quickly is a must or else the purpose of having a gun is really defeated.

I would also not hide the fact that you have a gun from your children. Force them to associate your gun with danger and terrible consequences. You don’t want to instill fear of others into them, But I think it is better to explain gun safety and rules to them as opposed to creating some sort of forbidden fruit effect about the gun in dad’s closet.

I’ve wrestled with these things myself. I own many guns but only one is accessible. As a gun owner, don’t shy away from the fact that having a gun in your house increases the chances of your family members dying because of a gun. That’s a cost-benefit analysis you have to make yourself.

I did not see this post coming.

This is the kind of practical advise I was hoping for, because it both acknowledges how difficult the decision process is while providing some common sense suggestions about how to manage increased risk of a tragic accident happening.

My wife and I have already started the conversation with our kids about guns. I want them to be as aware and informed about guns as possible so they know how dangerous guns can be, but I also don’t want to create the “forbidden fruit effect”.

So thanks again for the feedback, even the criticism. For me this is a practical matter, and the political sectarianism, like Pete, is getting old. If I get to be 60, the year will be 2039, and like I told Pete, I’m not feeling all that optimistic about 2039. My outlook would be different if I knew there was the political will to begin substantively addressing the damage human beings are doing to the planet. Unfortunately our politicians are still playing the Great Game against old adversaries. If that doesn’t change I shudder to imagine the kind of world my kids will inherit.

by lizard

At Intelligent Discontent there is a lengthy discussion surrounding the question posed in the title of the post: When is Self-Defense Permissible in Montana?

I’ve been thinking about guns and gun ownership for awhile now, and I’ve finally decided to purchase my first handgun. I figure there is some expertise among our readership, so suggestions are welcome. I’m looking for a smaller caliber firearm that’s simple and dependable. I’m interested in mainly home-defense, not stopping a Grizzly.

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