by lizard

Fact: crime rates have been going down for decades. There are plenty of theories why, but nothing conclusive. If I had to go with one, though, it would be the decline of lead exposure. They say correlation is not causation, but there this a ton of data backing up this theory. From the first link:

Rick Nevin, a Virginia economist who consults with the National Center for Healthy Housing (among other studious pursuits) maintains that the decline in crime can be traced to the U.S. ban on lead in gasoline and house paints. In a series of graphs he demonstrates how the drop in the crime rate coincides perfectly with the coming-of-age of the first generation protected from lead exposure. The theory has not been widely researched because how do you study a group that has not been exposed to something? But, lead has long been associated with violent behavior and Nevin insists his research proves a link between the lead ban and a drop in crime not only here in the U.S. but in nine other countries as well.

What makes the decline in crime rates hard to believe is the result, I would argue, of a different kind of exposure: media. Or, to be more specific, the lead-with-what-bleeds 24 hour news cycle.

Any mass-casualty shooting, for example, gets hyper-amplified. As does any horrific incident of violence. The result is our threat perception becomes skewed. I also can’t overstate the vast changes in the media landscape during my lifetime. I was born in 1978. CNN launched two years later. 34 years after that, I can carry instantaneous access to breaking global events in the palm of my hand.

Those of us who choose to expose ourselves to the unhealthy media landscape can try to counter the impact, but it’s difficult. Add an actual personal threat, and it’s nearly impossible.

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs outside of Seattle, my brother and I had free range of the woods behind our house. My mom has since told me she can’t believe she just let us bike around the neighborhood like there weren’t child rapists hiding behind every tree.

Even here, in idyllic Missoula, I’m acutely aware of potential threats. We have added a puppy to our family, and my wife and I are happy at the thought of her becoming a big, protective girl who will be a badass bitch if given the opportunity to protect the young members of her pack.

I also have that handgun I wrote about buying a few months ago, but it’s mostly kept in the safe to keep the kids safe from the new threat I brought into the home.

What exacerbates my skewed sense of danger is watching the horrors unfolding in other parts of the world. The thought of US exported chaos erupting domestically is something I probably spend too much time worrying about. That said, based on the outcomes of other imperial projects of world domination, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell America is truly exceptional in its ability to be the one lasting empire not susceptible to collapse.

And how to empires collapse? According to Zerohedge, it’s kinda like trickle down corruption:

Before an empire collapses, it first erodes from within. The collapse may appear sudden, but the processes of internal rot hollowed out the resilience, resolve, purpose and vitality of the empire long before its final implosion.

What are these processes of internal rot? Here are a few of the most pervasive and destructive forces of internal corrosion:

1. Each institution within the system loses sight of its original purpose of serving the populace and becomes self-serving. This erosion of common purpose serving the common good is so gradual that participants forget there was a time when the focus wasn’t on gaming the system to avoid work and accountability but serving the common good.

2. The corrupt Status Quo corrupts every individual who works within the system.Once an institution loses its original purpose and becomes self-serving, everyone within either seeks to maximize their own personal share of the swag and minimize their accountability, or they are forced out as a potentially dangerous uncorrupted insider.

The justification is always the same: everybody else is getting away with it, why shouldn’t I? Empires decline one corruptible individual at a time.

3. Self-serving institutions select sociopathic leaders whose skills are not competency or leadership but conning others into believing the institution is functioning optimally when in reality it is faltering/failing.

The late Roman Empire offers a fine example: entire Army legions in the hinterlands were listed as full-strength on the official rolls in Rome and payroll was issued accordingly, but the legions only existed on paper: corrupt officials pocketed the payroll for phantom legions.

Self-serving institutions reward con-artists in leadership roles because only con-artists can mask the internal rot with happy-story PR and get away with it.

4. The institutional memory rewards conserving the existing Status Quo and punishes innovation. Innovation necessarily entails risk, and those busy feathering their own nests (i.e. accepting money for phantom work, phantom legions, etc.) have no desire to place their share of the swag at risk just to improve sagging output and accountability.

So reforms and innovations that might salvage the institution are shelved or buried.

5. As the sunk costs of the subsystems increase, the institutional resistance to new technologies and processes increases accordingly. Those manufacturing steam locomotives in the early 20th century had an enormous amount of capital and institutional knowledge sunk in their factories. Tossing all of that out to invest in building diesel-electric locomotives that were much more efficient than the old-tech steam locomotives made little sense to those looking at sunk costs.
As a result, the steam locomotive manufacturers clung to the old ways and went out of business. The sunk costs of empire are enormous, as is the internal resistance to change.

6. Institutional memory and knowledge support “doing more of what worked in the past” even when it is clearly failing. I refer to this institutional risk-avoidance and lack of imagination as doing more of what has failed spectacularly.

Inept leadership keeps doing more of what once worked, even when it is clearly failing, in effect ignoring real-world feedback in favor of magical-thinking. The Federal Reserve is an excellent example.

7. These dynamics of eroding accountability, effectiveness and purpose lead to systemic diminishing returns. Each failing institution now needs more money to sustain its operations, as inefficiencies, corruption and incompetence reduce output while dramatically raising costs (phantom legions still get paid).

8. Incompetence is rewarded and competence punished. The classic example of this was “Good job, Brownie:” cronies and con-artists are elevated to leadership roles to reward loyalty and the ability to mask the rot with good PR. Serving the common good is set aside as sychophancy (obedient flattery) to incompetent leaders is rewarded and real competence is punished as a threat to the self-serving leadership.

There are more factors cited if you follow the link, but I think you get the point.

And what is the point?

Maybe the point is a cautionary tale. Paying attention to world events by consuming media produces a kind of hyperawareness of threat that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the objective data regarding crime rates.

Or, to state it in even simpler terms, ignorance is bliss.

By JC

“[U.S. intelligence] officials made clear they were relying in part on social media postings and videos.”

How comforting. Foreign policy developed via Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube postings! 

Well, who didn’t see the inevitable backpedalling by everybody who was pushing direct Russian involvement in the downing of MH 17? I guess that would be everybody who jumped on the Obama/Kerry/MSM propaganda bandwagon.

A few snippets from today’s AP story (yes, I’ll quote the AP so as not to cause many of you to run away in disgust at the mention of RT).

“Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.”

Hmmm… and all of the $5b that Vicki Nuland said we invested in Ukraine didn’t have anything to do with it? Or with the millions that NED paid to “social clubs and political organizations” to help the “revolution” didn’t? How about the VP’s son joining the board of a Ukrainian oil & gas company along with John Kerry’s bundler (whose financial partners include the ex-deputy CIA director) and the ex-Polish president that hid our secret rendition (torture) prisons from the world? Any of that help with “creating the conditions” that could result in a civilian air catastrophe?

“…the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.”

Well, I suppose that the Sun will print a retraction to it’s “Putin’s Missile” edition (not).

“… [U.S. intelligence] officials said they did not know who fired the missile.” 

Sure didn’t stop all the innuendo and accusations. Nor will this little acknowledgement take back all the propaganda that was generated after the catastrophe pointing to Russians and federalists.

“In terms of who fired the missile, ‘we don’t know a name, we don’t know a rank and we’re not even 100 percent sure of a nationality,” one official said, adding at another point, “There is not going to be a Perry Mason moment here.'”

A Perry Mason moment? Who are these guys trying to kid? Just say that you don’t know jack shit, and be done with it. Ya gotta be over 50 to even get the reference to Perry Mason. How about we have a special prosecutor moment: to look into our violations of international law with our meddlings in the world?

“The officials made clear they were relying in part on social media postings and videos made public in recent days by the Ukrainian government, even though they have not been able to authenticate all of it. For example, they cited a video of a missile launcher said to have been crossing the Russian border after the launch, appearing to be missing a missile.

But later, under questioning, the officials acknowledged they had not yet verified that the video was exactly what it purported to be.”

Yep, pure propaganda at work. And all of the MSM in the west bought it: hook, line and sinker. I would say that all of the propaganda was exactly what it was intended to be: the demonization of Russia and Putin.

When our public policy and statements on international disasters rely upon unverified social media and YouTube clips to respond with clumsy propaganda, who knows when the next shoe drops, what will happen. Let’s hope that the next time opportunity presents itself that our President doesn’t fumble “the football!”

Idiots.

Sea Blue Sea

by lizard

The best band in Missoula, IMHO, is the Whizpops. After listening to their album, Sea Blue Sea, for approximately the 748th time, I’m convinced kids in Missoula are some of the luckiest kids around. The album is a brilliant saunter through the sea with dolphins, sea turtles and manatees. I just got my kids headphones for a long car trip we’re getting ready to take, and earlier this evening my three year old sat in a chair and listened to the whole album, singing along.

For me, the Whizpops are a much needed contrast to the destructive forces driving the songs I’m working on. The oceanic theme of Sea Blue Sea sparks my kids’ imagination, offering them a positive vision of the element that sustains life on this planet: water. The lyrical ingenuity and diversity of music styles incorporated make it a kids album parents won’t hate with a fiery passion.

But as I listen to this wonderful music, I can’t help thinking about what humans are doing to this planet. For example, Fukushima.

I try to avoid reading about Fukushima. It’s far enough away that I’m still trying to pretend I’m not directly affected. But there is no avoiding smoke in the Missoula valley. Last week’s choke-fest comes courtesy of Oregon and Washington burning, like this funnel of fire that destroyed around 100 homes.

Smoke isn’t good business. It annoys tourists. I’m saying this because I hope at some point the Missoulian editorial board will realize how threatening their shilling for the Keystone pipeline is. For a quick reminder, here is last year’s op-ed urging pipeline approval. Here is one example of the densely deceitful reasoning put forth by the business-oriented paper of record for Missoula:

However, it’s a good bet that the majority of Montanans are in favor of the project. Certainly Montana’s entire congressional delegation is on board. They understand that the pipeline project will create thousands of new, good-paying jobs and prefer that the U.S. get its oil from its close neighbor and ally, Canada. They note that TransCanada has agreed to a strict set of conditions designed to avoid any environmental damage. Besides, the State Department has concluded that the project carries no significant risk of environmental harm – or of an increased rate of greenhouse gas emissions, given that development of Canada’s tar sands is expected to happen with or without the new pipeline.

In his weekly column, George Ochenski goes after Democrats for their complicity in the war against the environment:

For many years now the Democrats have been largely identified with protection of the environment, a core ideology that not only produces large numbers of voters and campaign contributions, but is also essential to the continuation of life on earth. Today’s Democrats, however, are now almost indistinguishable from Republicans in their lust for fossil fuels, their new-found love of deforestation, and a twisted approach to endangered species restoration.

Let’s start with the Obama administration, which has just announced that it will open the Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil exploration after decades of such activities being banned under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

It’s no great secret that the U.S. is currently producing enormous amounts of oil and gas thanks to nationwide fracking. Led by the Bakken boom, we are producing so much petroleum that the long-standing ban on crude oil exports is being challenged, while massive LNG (liquid natural gas) terminals are built to export natural gas worldwide. All this exploration, pollution and extraction is for corporate profit, not energy independence.

We have no idea what the long-term effects of the wide-spread fracking operations will have on surface and groundwater pollution to earthquake frequency and distribution. We’re already seeing some of the impacts, but until the environmental consequences of stuffing huge amounts of toxic chemicals under high pressure into our underlying geologic strata are “proven beyond a doubt” our politicians give extractive industries the benefit of the doubt.

The depressing reality is this: there is no political will to face the harsh reality of what we are doing to this planet. Politicians can posture and pundits can pander and newspapers can shill all they want. None of that will matter when the full scope of exceeding the earth’s carrying capacity is finally realized.

And by then it will be too late.

by lizard

IDF soldiers have been unleashed on Gaza, and they are going on a murderous rampage, killing over sixty Palestinians in one neighborhood:

Israeli forces heavily shelled the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shuja’iyeh last night killing 63 Palestinians, including at least 17 children, and causing thousands to seek shelter in United Nations facilities. This latest attack brings the total number of Palestinians killed since Operation Protective Edge began on July 8, 2014 to more than 350. Over 63,173 are now living in UNRWA shelters across Gaza, nearly 10,000 more than the number of Palestinians made refugees after Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.

That link is to Mondoweiss, a must read blog for following Israeli atrocities and US political servitude, which was on full display as John Kerry did the Sunday propaganda news shows. There was one slight problem: a hot mic caught a candid expression of criticism from Kerry:

Today, John Kerry made the rounds of the Sunday morning news shows following the Israeli massacre in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shuja’iyeh which killed 63 Palestinians. Although Kerry defended Israel’s actions on air, he was caught with a hot mic off air telling an aide, ‘It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.” Fox host Chris Wallace asks Kerry about the apparent criticism of the Israeli onslaught, but Kerry sticks to the talking points. The difference between what Kerry says on air and off is mind numbing.

During the off air moment Kerry also says he should leave for the region right away and that he thinks “it’s crazy to be sitting around.”

I’m not sure why Kerry thinks he should go to the Middle East. Does he want to get a closer look at the flechette rounds Israel is using?

The Israeli military is using flechette shells, which spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal metal darts, in its military operation in Gaza.

Six flechette shells were fired towards the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, on 17 July, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Nahla Khalil Najjar, 37, suffered injuries to her chest, it said. PCHR provided a picture of flechettes taken by a fieldworker last week.

Or does Kerry want to get a closer look at those tunnels that this whole ground invasion is supposedly targeting? I guess one of those tunnels must have been under Othman Hussein’s Gaza home:

The ongoing Israeli onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza has already hit its cultural life with the demolition of the home of artist Raed Issa by an air strike on Tuesday.

This has been followed by the destruction of the house of poet Othman Hussein and his family in Rafah in southern Gaza. According to family friends in the UK who spoke to The Electronic Intifada, the house, located in Shuka, an agricultural town east of Rafah, was hit by tank shells on Thursday, 17 July. The home was completely destroyed, although Hussein and his relations were able to escape harm.

And I’m sure there were probably tunnels under the el-Wafa hospital:

The Israeli army targeted and destroyed the Gaza strip’s only rehabilitation hospital even though Israeli authorities said they did not believe weapons were inside of the facility. El-Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, which treats long-term injuries and physical disabilities, was heavily shelled Thursday evening causing an emergency evacuation of all staff and patients. El-Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital treats long-term injuries and physical disabilities. All of the patients have some degree of paralysis, require around the clock care and many are on oxygen support and feeding tubes.

Clearly this is just another case of Hamas using paralyzed hospital patients as human shields. Also, Israel is warning journalists as well about how Hamas is putting their lives at mortal risk. Here is the actual announcement featuring this excerpt:

As part of Hamas’ strategy of hiding behind the civilian population it has frequently exploited journalists as human shields, deliberately putting them at risk of injury or death.

Israel is not in any way responsible for injury or damage that may occur as a result of field reporting.

Man, that Hamas is wicked. Did you know they even use telegenically dead Palestinians to further their terrorist cause?

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Netanyahu accused Hamas of a cynical disregard for human life.

“These people are the worst terrorists — genocidal terrorists,” he said. “They call for the destruction of Israel and they call for the killing of every Jew, wherever they can find them.”

“They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can,” the prime minister continued. “They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.”

Hamas wants more dead? I’m sure Israel will oblige. After all, this incremental genocide has multiple purposes, and total expulsion from Gaza appears to be one of them:

Israel must attack Gaza even more mercilessly, expel the population and resettle the territory with Jews, the deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has said.

Moshe Feiglin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, makes the call in an article for the Israeli news website Arutz Sheva.

Feiglin demands that Israel launch attacks “throughout Gaza with the IDF’s [Israeli army’s] maximum force (and not a tiny fraction of it) with all the conventional means at its disposal.”

Like John Kerry said: “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation“.

Blogs and Print Media

by lizard

I noticed a little change in this year’s Best Of contest put out by the Missoula Independent. The best blog category has been replaced with a more general best website category removed, leaving the best website category, which was won this year by Missoula Events.

Though the prominence of blogging has diminished over the years, I wrote back in February that blogging is far from being dead. In that post I mentioned how content I have written has been used by newspapers, specifically the Great Falls Tribune.

For traditional media, blog content can be used at no cost to provide a little filler, which I would think is helpful as newsrooms continue to downsize. But there is also friction. Newspapers are no longer the gatekeepers of content and must compete for clicks with us pesky bloggers who don’t have to labor under editors trying to resuscitate their struggling business model.

In the realm of political blogging, liberal bloggers like to think of themselves as more adept than their conservative counterparts, as evidenced by this post from perennial conservative scold, Don Pogreba.

Instead of knee-jerk mockery, I’m hopeful that younger conservatives can push back on the ignorant extremism that has seeped in beneath the banner of the Tea Party, so I look forward to seeing what kind of content comes out of Copper Commando and Montana Floodlight.

But let’s not kid ourselves, bloggers are not that influential. Newspapers, though struggling, are still the dominant form of information dispersal for your average Joe (or Jane) which is why it’s so frustrating to read the crappy reporting on issues like homelessness in our local fish-wrap, the Missoulian.

All that said, it’s still a great privilege, for me, to be able to put up posts that people can read and comment on.

So thank you, readers of 4&20 Blackbirds, for remaining interested in what this cantankerous blogger has to say.

Stay tuned…

*this post was edited for accuracy based on a comment in the comment thread.

By JC

“There Will Likely be Misinformation” – Barack Obama

How prescient and self aware!

BO: We don’t have time for propaganda… Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.

Evidence? What evidence?

RT: However, it is unclear who fired the missile or where it was fired from. US intelligence officials believe the attack from an area controlled by the pro-Russian separatists, according to the president…

A Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missile battery was operational in the region, the Russian Defense Ministry said, contradicting Kiev’s statements. The battery was deployed at a site from which it could have fired a missile at the airliner, the ministry said in a statement. It said radiation from the battery’s radar was detected by the Russian military.

Wouldn’t be the first time the Ukranian military took down a civilian airliner:

BO: We also know that this is not the first time a plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine.

The Telegraph: Ukraine admits it shot down Russian airliner [in 2001]

Ukraine finally admitted yesterday that its military shot down a Russian airliner that crashed into the Black Sea last week, killing all 78 passengers and crew. Evhen Marchuk, the chairman of Ukraine’s security council, conceded that the plane had probably been brought down by “an accidental hit from an S-200 rocket fired during exercises”.

And who is supporting whom? Pot calling the kettle black??? Continue Reading »

by lizard

Flight MH 17 appears to have been shot out of the sky over Eastern Ukraine today, killing 295 people. The speculation is rampant. If you’re into early speculation on what happened, I suggest sifting through this comment thread at Moon of Alabama. Another post worth considering is this one from Zerohedge, asking why it appears the pilot changed course from the 10 previous MH 17 flights.

Needless to say, this crash will dominate the 24 news cycle. What might not get as much attention is Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza:

After days of waiting and deliberation, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday night directed the IDF to send ground troops into Gaza to strike the terror tunnels into Israel.

Signaling that the initial phase of the ground attack would be limited, a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon directed the IDF to prepare to expand the ground operation.

The statement said the security cabinet approved the operation after Israel agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal on Tuesday, which Hamas rejected.

That cease-fire discussed between Israel and Egypt (and not Hamas, who learned about it from the media) now appears to have been a flimsy ruse to make it look like Israel made an effort before doing what they had planned on doing all along.

Chile, in response to Israel’s bombing of mostly civilians, has suspended trade and is considering doing more:

Chile has suspended Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with Israel and is considering the withdrawal of its ambassador to Tel Aviv in protest against the Israeli bombing campaign on Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

The Chilean-Palestinian parliamentary group told HispanTV that the Chilean government will also seek Israel’s condemnation by the UN Security Council (UNSC) after meeting with the Chilean Foreign Heraldo Munoz.

Chilean deputies and senators of Palestinian origin went to the Foreign Ministry on Monday to demand a stronger position against Israel regarding its actions in the Gaza Strip.

With the number of victims of Israeli attacks passing the 200 mark, parliamentarians of all backgrounds have demanded urgent action by the Chilean government.

Home to a large Palestinian community, the aggression on Gaza has not gone unnoticed in Chile.

So, as the spin cycle goes into extreme over-drive over flight MH 17, I will continue compiling links and writing posts about Israel’s war crimes.

by lizard

The killing in Gaza continues. The latest atrocity committed by Israel is an airstrike that killed 4 kids playing soccer on the beach. They were reportedly misidentified as fleeing Hamas fighters.

But Israelis are an optimistic people who can see the positive in this tragedy, specifically how these kids will not breed since, you know, they are dead.

Dead Palestinian children do present a PR problem for the apartheid state of Israel. But don’t worry, they have a plan for that—Facebook warriors:

As the death toll from Israel’s savage bombardment of Gaza continues to climb, Israel has once again turned to students to sell the slaughter online.

“Although they haven’t been called up to the army yet, they’ve decided to enlist in a civilian mission that is no less important – Israeli propaganda [hasbara],” Ynet’s Hebrew edition reported about a massive initiative organized by the Israeli student union branch at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC Herzliya), a prestigious private university.

“Hasbara,” literally “explaining,” is the term used in Israel for government propaganda aimed at overseas audiences.

“The goal is to deliver a very clear message to people abroad – Israel has the right to defend itself,” Lidor Bar David told Ynet.

Bar David, a student, and one of the organizers of the “war room,” adds, “We want people abroad who don’t know our reality to understand exactly what is going on here.”

Speaking of propaganda, the alleged ceasefire proposal Hamas rejected was a clear scam that Hamas officials only found out about through media reports:

This morning there was some talk of a cease-fire allegedly after an agreement was negotiatated by the Egyptian dictator Sisi. Israel’s security cabinet immediately accepted it.

But this cease-fire agreement was actually written by the war-criminal and Zionist Tony Blair. No Palestinian had even seen it or was involved in its creation. They learned of the “agreement” through the media. It included nothing but a stop of fighting and some vague promise of further talks. For what then did so many people die?

A more sensible deal, offered as a counter-proposal from Hamas, has the following conditions:

Withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border.

Freeing all the prisoners that were arrested after the killing of the three youths.

Lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people.

Establishing an international seaport and airport which would be under U.N. supervision.

Increasing the permitted fishing zone to 10 kilometers.

Internationalizing the Rafah Crossing and placing it under the supervision of the U.N. and some Arab nations.

International forces on the borders.

Easing conditions for permits to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Prohibition on Israeli interference in the reconciliation agreement.

Reestablishing an industrial zone and improvements in further economic development in the Gaza Strip.

Does Israel want 10 years of peace, or would they prefer to create a Palestinian state at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea?

Or, more likely, does Israel have designs on the 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas valued at 4 billion dollars? From the link:

Since the discovery of oil and gas in the Occupied Territories, resource competition has increasingly been at the heart of the conflict, motivated largely by Israel’s increasing domestic energy woes.

Mark Turner, founder of the Research Journalism Initiative, reported that the siege of Gaza and ensuing military pressure was designed to “eliminate” Hamas as “a viable political entity in Gaza” to generate a “political climate” conducive to a gas deal. This involved rehabilitating the defeated Fatah as the dominant political player in the West Bank, and “leveraging political tensions between the two parties, arming forces loyal to Abbas and the selective resumption of financial aid.”

Ya’alon’s comments in 2007 illustrate that the Israeli cabinet is not just concerned about Hamas – but concerned that if Palestinians develop their own gas resources, the resulting economic transformation could in turn fundamentally increase Palestinian clout.

Regardless of intention, we are seeing the outcome of Israel’s racist incitement and cruel occupation. How long will this latest episode of Israel’s incremental genocide go on?

by lizard

Is America’s influence on the world stage evaporating? That is what the author of this article is asserting:

The most palpable sign of U.S. weakness is its policy toward Russia. Obama’s State Department promised “painful” sanctions for Russia’s policy on Ukraine, but the U.S. hasn’t even managed to inflict a bruise. To really “hurt” Russia economically, the U.S. needs its European allies to obey, and they are turning their backs to Obama’s anti-Russia plans.

The New York Times reports:

“Not only were they [the G7 nations] unwilling to snub the Russian leader entirely, as Mr. Obama sought, they were also reluctant to go along with other efforts to isolate the Kremlin. Most notably, the French government repeated that it would go ahead with the $1.6 billion sale of powerful warships to Moscow along with plans to train 400 Russian sailors in France this month. And other European leaders were cautious about setting further red lines threatening additional sanctions against Russia.”

The Obama administration was especially vexed by France. After France didn’t back down from the arms deal with Russia, the U.S. government fined France’s biggest bank $10 billion, ostensibly for money laundering.

The Bush-like arrogance it takes for the U.S. to fine an overseas French bank has outraged the French government and public alike, and likely won’t make Obama more friends in Europe. But U.S. global domination of the global financial system — because of the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency — is one of the last forms of U.S. foreign power, and it too is shrinking.

To emphasize that last point, a new bank for the BRICS has been established to counter the influence of the IMF and World Bank:

The BRICS group of emerging powers have launched a $100bn development bank to be based in the Chinese city of Shanghai, according to a joint declaration.

The group will set up the new bank, with the capital equally shared among the BRICS members – Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa.

The New Development Bank’s first president will be from India while the board’s chairman will be Brazilian, according to the declaration released at a summit in Fortaleza, Brazil.

It is no longer (if it ever truly was) a unipolar, US dominated world. But when will US leadership acknowledge this reality?

Acknowledging reality has never been a strength of this country, especially in this new century where a statement (probably from Karl Rove) like this can be made:

We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality.

In this created reality seemingly forever insulated from objective reality, the Federal Reserve keeps puttering along, pretending low interest rates will get the economy going. From Zerohedge:

The Status Quo has only survived this crushing expansion of debt by dropping interest rates to historic lows. This is a chart of the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond, which reflects the extraordinary decline in interest rates over the past two decades.

The Federal Reserve has pegged rates at essentially 0% for years. That means the strategy of lowering interest rates to enable more debt has run out of oxygen: rates can’t drop any lower, and so they can either stay at current levels or rise.

There are graphs at the link bolstering this point.

So if “quantitative easing” of insolvent banks and 0% interest rates have not sparked the economic activity we were promised, does the Fed have other options? It doesn’t look like it.

Maybe if that debt-creation stemmed from domestic infrastructure investment we’d see better results. But that’s not happening. Instead America is going into debt in order to dominate the global resource wars, and in that effort, America is losing.

In this emerging, multipolar world US foreign policy can no longer rely on the threat/use of its military to intimidate and bully other nations into submission.

Are our leaders capable of shelving the hubris and acknowledging this new reality? The longer they don’t, the deeper they dig.

by lizard

As a new week begins, America’s closest ally in the Middle East continues its disproportionate assault on 1.5 million Palestinians, an assault a handful of US citizens can’t seem to escape:

Mohammed is one of several hundred Palestinians with dual American citizenship who remained in Gaza Sunday night, unable to leave as fighting there entered its seventh day. The Ministry of Health in Gaza said that more than 174 people have been killed in the last week, as many as one-third of them children. While regional and western officials, including those from the U.S., have pressed both sides to agree to a cease-fire, Israel’s top leadership and Hamas officials abroad have said that the recent round of fighting could continue for days, or weeks to come. “I’m so worried, mostly for my children,” said Mohammed, who has been working as a freelance photographer in Gaza for years, and who recently became a TED fellow. “This isn’t easy for anyone, to be stuck here.” Mohammed said she has been trying to leave Gaza for weeks. She entered Gaza through its Rafah border crossing with Egypt last month to visit family, bringing her two young daughters, 3 years old and 18 months old, with her. Once inside, she discovered that to leave required a complex system of bribing Egyptian officials to be put on a “VIP list,” which, if she was lucky, would get them out. “I wrote the U.S. Embassy and they told me they couldn’t help. They said they couldn’t interfere to get me out,” Mohammed said. It was only after organizers from TED contacted the embassy directly that a consular officer got in touch with her, she said.

It’s not surprising the US government is worthless when it comes to actually protecting its citizens from Israel’s tyrannical slaughtering of (mostly) civilians. Just look at the disgusting deference to Israel exhibited by a Democrat Congresswoman over the vicious assault experienced by one of her own Florida constituents:

Tarek Abu Khdeir, a 15-year-old Palestinian-American high school student from Tampa, was brutally beaten in a videotaped July 3 incident in occupied East Jerusalem by Israeli border police. After being thrown in prison, he is now held under house arrest without charges, unable to receive adequate medical care for the extensive injuries he sustained during the beating. (Video of the alleged beating at the bottom of this article) Abu Khdeir’s family has beseeched their congressional representative, Castor, to publicly call for his release and immediate return to the United States. Though her staff has met repeatedly with the family, she has said and done nothing of substance to assist them. “If Tarek [Abu Khdeir] was a Jewish American teen, everybody and their mother would be howling for his release,” Hassan Shibly, chief director of CAIR-Florida and the Abu Khdeir family’s legal representative told me. “What we’re seeing here is a clear double standard.” While sources close to Abu Khdeir’s family say Castor’s staff has treated the family with respect even as they rebuffed their demands, a distant relative who visited Castor’s field office in Tampa to plead for help said she was “yelled out, intimidated, and insulted” by a staffer.

While US officials are servile to the apartheid state of Israel as it commits war crimes, like targeting water/sewer systems and using banned DIME weapons, some US musicians show what it’s like to still have a conscious. In a short article about a Neil Young concert being canceled (because of Palestinian rockets) there is a nice quote from Eddie Vedder:

Meanwhile, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder on Friday denounced Israel in an expletive-laden tirade during a concert in England. “I swear to f***ing god, there are people out there who are looking for a reason to kill,” Vedder said. “They’re looking for a reason to go across borders and take over land that doesn’t belong to them. “They should get the f*** out, and mind their own f***ing business. We don’t want to give them our money. We don’t want to give them our taxes to drop bombs on children.”

Brian Eno has also gone on record with pointed criticism regarding how Israeli atrocities are being depicted by western media:

In an 11 July letter in the Guardian, Eno, formerly of the band Roxy Music, writes that he had been an “active and vocal supporter of the BBC for the whole of my adult life.” The reason he said was because of its “famous impartiality.” “But now that reputation [for impartiality] is being eroded,” the musician writes. “It’s a drift I started to notice a few years ago, and which I think has become very obvious.” Eno explains:

The most recent incident concerns the killing of three Israeli teenagers in Hebron. This admittedly disgusting crime has received an entirely disproportionate treatment: listening to the BBC one would be left with the impression that killing children had never happened in [the West Bank] before. But it has. And it happens with monotonous regularity. Not, by and large, to Israeli children, but to Palestinians. And not only killing, but imprisonment and torture and day-to-day harassment and brutality. This goes on all the time – and I see little reaction to it from the international media. Unfortunately, that increasingly includes the BBC, which now, like many others, seems to regard Palestinian lives as less valuable, less newsworthy.

Here is another article about the obvious media distortion:

Since the beginning of the offensive, at least 174 Palestinians have been killed and over 1,090 injured, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Thousands of homes have been destroyed. A handful of Israelis have been injured but none have died from a Hamas launched rocket. Yet despite the disproportionality of the brutality, the establishment media continues to distort the truth by painting Hamas as the sole aggressor. From FOX‘s ‘Gaza Rockets Aimed at Israel: What Would you Do with Just 15 Seconds?’ to liberal alt-news site VOX‘s ‘The Tragedy Never Ends, Palestinian Rockets Force Israeli Peace Conference to Evacuate’ to even Human Rights Watch, a human rights organization that is supposed to be unbiased in its criticism of atrocities, which leads with ‘Indiscriminate Palestinian Rocket Attacks’.

Over the weekend, Israel launched its first ground incursion. More are sure to follow. The media plays a critical role in shaping public opinion. For those in the states, the propaganda keeps Americans in the dark regarding the atrocities their taxes support. Readers of this blog won’t have the luxury of conditioned ignorance. As Israel continues imposing its murderous brutality on a captive population, I will continue compiling links and expounding on the consequences of US complicity in Israeli war crimes. Sadly, there will be more to come.

Singing About Holy War

by lizard

Readers of this blog may have noticed the poetry series I try to update weekly has been on hiatus for awhile. While there is no specific reason for the hiatus, a good portion of my creative impulse has been directed toward song-writing. I have over a dozen songs I’ve been working on in preparation for recording them, so until this little project runs its course, I’m not going to be putting up poetry posts.

For me, songs require tighter adherence to rhythm and rhyme. Taking topics I write about in less structured ways (blog posts and poems) and trying to create songs forces me to be as concise as possible, which I greatly enjoy.

The songs share a thematic concept, which the working title of the album (if I can call it that at this point) highlights: Rise of the Gnostics.

I have written about Gnosticism in previous posts, like this one from August, 2012, so if you’re interested in learning more about this obscure branch of ancient Christianity, check out the post.

I bring this up now because it appears we are on the precipice of a full-blown Holy War:

On the eve of a threatened ground invasion of Gaza, the commander of the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade has told his soldiers that they are engaged in a war to “wipe out” an “enemy who defames” God.

In a Hebrew language letter to his troops published by Israel’s NRG news website and laden with bibilical references, Colonel Ofer Winter writes, “History has chosen us to be the sharp edge of the bayonet of fighting the terrorist enemy ‘from Gaza’ which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel’s battles.”

“We will act together forcefully and with resolve, with initiative and with deceptive tricks and aim for contact with the enemy. We will do everything to live up to the mission and wipe out the enemy and remove the threat from the Nation of Israel,” Winter’s letter adds.

In Hebrew, the phrase used for “Nation of Israel” refers specifically and only to Jews.

I have a song I wrote a few days ago that I will share below. I have an audio recording of me actually singing it, but I ran into some technical difficulties converting the file into a format I could put in the post, so for now it will be just the lyrics.

*

PROTECTED EDGE

cast your lead
into pillars of cloud
then Palestine dogs
won’t bark so loud

burn boys bodies
kill girls with cars
for god’s chosen people
it’s never too far

but god is a monster
blocking the sun
and the shadows I see
don’t know where to run

ask for her back
and if he won’t give
it’s time to attack
the way we live

so protect your edge
and let hell rain down
Palestine rats
can go underground

the ones who poke up
improve your aim
who will care
since the world’s insane?

I hope one day
the Gnostics rise
and powerless people
open up their eyes

the clouds will pass
and cities fall down
and god can have
his holy dirt mound

by lizard

I don’t expect honest coverage from corporate media regarding the war crimes Israel is committing right now, but ABC’s coverage was so terrible that they were forced to apologize:

Red-faced ABC News officials apologized early Thursday morning for misidentifying shell-shocked Palestinians as Israeli victims of a Hamas missile attack.

The gaffe came during an “ABC World News” report on Tuesday about the rapidly escalating crisis between Israel and the Palestinians. Anchor Diane Sawyer described an Associated Press photo as Israelis “trying to salvage what they can” after a Palestinian missile attack. The image, however, actually shows Palestinians walking through rubble with their belongings following an Israeli air strike.

The mistake was identified by pro-Palestinian journalist Rania Khalek late on Wednesday.

During Thursday’s predawn hours, “ABC World News” posted a statement to its Facebook page acknowledging the error: “On Tuesday night `World News’ aired a report on the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, including attacks from both sides. In the introduction to the story, we mistakenly identified a family depicted in a still photo. They are Palestinian, not Israeli. We regret the error and will correct it.”

I guess ABC couldn’t find any images of destroyed Israeli homes, like the home that was intentionally targeted, resulting in the death of 5 children, all from the same family:

The exchange of Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire has continued to escalate into a third day, as health officials in Gaza reported that the deadliest pre-dawn bombardment yet has killed five children from the same family.

Israel also targeted a beach cafe, killing 9 people who were clearly plotting the demise of Israel while watching the World Cup.

How else should we expect the poor, victimized nation of Israel to act? Bomb shelter selfies?

Israel will continue committing war crimes with impunity. Because they can. The result of this barbarous behavior from the apartheid state of Israel ensures there will be new generations of traumatized Palestinians harboring acute hatred of the people inflicting collective punishment on them.

And the cycle continues…

by lizard

In the last few days I’ve run across a few articles I think Montanans should read. The first is a piece from National Geographic, titled Bakken Oil Boom Brings Growing Pains to Small Montana Town. Here is an excerpt:

On a recent evening, as Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Deputy Avis Ball patrolled near Bainville, she pointed out a simple cross next to the highway. It’s the spot where in 2012 she found Brian Doyle, a 49-year-old oil worker from Florida, dead and partially buried in the snow. Doyle was run over and abandoned by his friend, who was later convicted of negligent homicide.

“He’d been laying there for a week in the snow,” said Ball, who patrols the eastern edge of the county alone, often an hour from the nearest backup deputy at the far end of the county.

Earlier this year, Ball said, four men beat a man nearly to death in Williston, put him in the trunk of a car, and dropped him off in a field in Roosevelt County. “When I started, I was taking dog calls,” said Ball, who joined the department in 2011. “Since then it has taken off.”

The FBI has warned that Mexican drug cartels are trafficking drugs to the area, targeting the large paychecks of the mostly young men who work in the Bakken. Felony drug arrests in Roosevelt County rose from 4 to 28 from 2008 to 2012, according to Sheriff Freedom Crawford. Crawford said methamphetamine is the biggest drug problem the county faces, followed by illegal painkillers. But a bigger problem, he said, is the increase in alcohol-fueled fistfights. From 2008 to 2012, assault arrests nearly doubled, to 173.

“Historically, we knew who our troublemakers are,” Crawford said. “Now after the oil field hit, we can’t keep up with it. We don’t know who these people are.”

Speaking of alcohol, the Flathead Beacon has a piece titled Montana and Alcohol—an Abusive Relationship:

A drive past the numerous saloons and bars that line city streets across the state will tell you that Montanans enjoy their alcohol. Montana has the second-highest ratio of bars to people in the U.S., and a new study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows the state also leads the nation in alcohol abuse.

According to the study, which was carried out between 2006 and 2010 and released in June, Montana ranks third in age-adjusted alcohol-attributable deaths (AAD) per 100,000 citizens, behind only New Mexico and Alaska.

Michael Cummins, the executive director at the Flathead Valley Chemical Dependency Clinic, said the drinking problem in Montana is reflective of a broader issue sweeping the rest of the country.

“Most people who drink don’t have a problem,” but the large number of drinkers combined with a lenient culture make alcohol our most abused drug, Cummins said. In Montana, on average 13.2 percent of all deaths for people between the ages of 20 and 64 can be linked to alcohol. In a state that only reached 1 million inhabitants in 2011, an average of 8,713 people suffer alcohol-related deaths every year.

The article goes on to claim that, according to a CDCP study, the annual cost of excessive drinking for the US is 223.5 billion dollars.

The next two articles are personal stories about how folks fall on hard times. The first is a Montana story featured on the public radio series, Mountain West Voices, titled Middle Aged, Professional and Homeless in Montana. Go to the link for the audio—it’s a compelling interview.

The second story is from the Washington Post, titled This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps. Here’s an excerpt:

2007 was a grand year for me. I moved back home from San Diego, where I’d produced ‘Good Morning San Diego.’ I quickly secured my next big gig, as a producer in Boston for the 6 p.m. news. The pay wasn’t great, but it was more than enough to support me. And my boyfriend was making good money, too, as a copy editor for the Hartford Courant.

When I found out I was pregnant in February 2008, it was a shock, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Two weeks later, when I discovered “it” was actually “they” (twins, as a matter of fact), I panicked a little. But not because I worried for our future. My middle-class life still seemed perfectly secure. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to do that much work.

Two weeks before my children were born, my future husband found himself staring at a pink slip. The days of unemployment turned into weeks, months, and, eventually, years.

Then my kids were born, six weeks early. They were just three pounds each at birth, barely the length of my shoe. We fed them through a little tube we attached to our pinky fingers because their mouths weren’t strong enough to suckle. We spent 10 days in the hospital waiting for them to increase in size. They never did. Try as I might, I couldn’t get my babies to put on weight. With their lives at risk, I switched from breast milk to formula, at about $15 a can. We went through dozens a week.

In just two months, we’d gone from making a combined $120,000 a year to making just $25,000 and leeching out funds to a mortgage we couldn’t afford. Our savings dwindled, then disappeared.

So I did what I had to do. I signed up for Medicaid and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

by lizard

Israel is getting what it wants, a new military offensive titled Operation Protective Edge:

Israel launched what its military indicated could be a long-term offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday, striking at least 50 sites in Gaza by air and sea and mobilising troops for a possible ground invasion in order to quell rocket attacks on Israel.

The army said its offensive, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, was aimed at striking Hamas and ending the rocket fire that has intensified in recent weeks amid tensions over the killing of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager.

Nearly 300 rockets and mortars had been fired at Israel in recent weeks, including a barrage of about 80 projectiles on Monday alone, the army said. Israel has responded with dozens of air strikes and eight Palestinian militants were killed on Monday. Israel had signalled it would not launch a larger offensive if the militant group Hamas ceased the rocket fire.

“They chose the direction of escalation,” said army spokesman Lieutenant Peter Lerner. “So the mission will go on as long as we feel it is necessary to carry it out. We don’t expect it to be a short mission on our behalf.”

Hamas “chose the direction of escalation” says an army tool. Bullshit. For context, I wrote this post last year which shows how Israel undermined a 6 month truce before launching Operation Cast Lead at the end of 2008.

This new operation was pushed into existence by the murder of three Israeli teens. The Netanyahu regime, instead of being forthright with information about these murders, decided to exploit the tragedy for maximum racist incitement:

From the moment three Israeli teens were reported missing last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s military-intelligence apparatus suppressed the flow of information to the general public. Through a toxic blend of propaganda, subterfuge and incitement, they inflamed a precarious situation, manipulating Israelis into supporting their agenda until they made an utterly avoidable nightmare inevitable.

Israeli police, intelligence officials and Netanyahu knew within hours of the kidnapping and murder of the three teens that they had been killed. And they knew who the prime suspects were less than a day after the kidnapping was reported.

Rather than reveal these details to the public, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency imposed a gag order on the national media, barring news outlets from reporting that the teens had almost certainly been killed, and forbidding them from revealing the identities of their suspected killers. The Shin Bet even lied to the parents of the kidnapped teens, deceiving them into believing their sons were alive.

The result of this manipulative deceit is racist-fueled violence:

As most of the media have focused on the three Israeli youths, there has been almost no mention of the collective punishment that has been unleashed on the overwhelmingly civilian Palestinian population. The Israeli occupation forces have gone on a rampage that has included: arbitrarily destroying Palestinian homes; burning down two farms and destroying a Mosque; abducting over 600 Palestinians including over 50 children, and bombing the people of Gaza with 34 air strikes in one night.

The attacks by the state appear to have given license to mobs of Israeli settlers to hunt down Palestinian youths. For example, on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 16-year-old Yousef Abu Zagh was shot dead near his home in Jenin refugee camp. A nine-year-old Palestinian girl, Sanabel Mohammed Tus, was hunted down in a car and run over by settlers in the village of Jaba.

The apartheid state of Israel is out of control. It sickens me to think that my tax dollars support this nation saturated with violent racists helping the Netanyahu regime impose collective punishment on Palestinians.

Half-Cocked

by lizard

I have a gun with a long barrel, but it’s only a .22 caliber handgun, so I’m not sure what that says about the size of my penis. Don Pogreba has been thinking about guns and penises, so maybe he can tell me. Here is a quote from that post:

There is probably a more serious post about the insanity of American gun culture to be written today, but it’s a holiday. Instead, I offer this assessment. Psychology Central defines compensation as:

Compensation is a process of psychologically counterbalancing perceived weaknesses by emphasizing strength in other arenas.

If Don had been capable of writing a serious post over the holiday weekend, it might have included the staggering incidents of gun violence in Chicago over the holiday break:

Violence in Chicago continued over the Fourth of July weekend with at least 11 people shot in roughly four hours Sunday afternoon, bringing the total number of people shot since the holiday weekend began to more than 60.

At least seven people have been killed over the long weekend.

There are aspects of American gun culture that seem to be rather unhinged, especially when it comes to the open carry movement. It would be interesting to see what would happen to some of these intelligent gun owners packing heat at Target if they flaunted their guns on the streets of Chicago.

For me, owning a gun is still a bit surreal. I go out about once a week for target practice. I’m slowly getting more comfortable handling a gun, but when my Ruger Mark III misfires (with certain ammunition) it makes me very nervous.

The clash of cultures surrounding guns and the role of government in regulating guns is complicated. I’m not going to get too involved in this post with hashing out the competing ideologies involved. I will say that compensation for some perceived lack of penile virility isn’t the issue, it’s fear. We live in a world increasingly saturated with hostility, which makes the ability to defend oneself with lethal force feel necessary. Maybe that’s an inaccurate perception, but it’s one that has provided part of my own motivation for obtaining and learning how to use a very dangerous tool.

by lizard

In June of 1967, Israel attacked the USS Liberty. The brutal attack resulted in the death of 34 soldiers and over 170 injuries. The Pentagon immediately covered-up this attack, depicting it as an unfortunate accident. But it wasn’t an accident. Israel intended for this attack to be blamed on Egypt to lure the US into the 6 day war. Luckily members of the USS Liberty crew were able to get a distress signal out. Here is an excerpt from a book examining the politics of anti-semitism:

In early June of 1967, at the onset of the Six Day War, the Pentagon sent the USS Liberty from Spain into international waters off the coast of Gaza to monitor the progress of Israel’s attack on the Arab states. The Liberty was a lightly armed surveillance ship.

Only hours after the Liberty arrived it was spotted by the Israeli military. The IDF sent out reconnaissance planes to identify the ship. They made eight trips over a period of three hours. The Liberty was flying a large US flag and was easily recognizable as an American vessel.

A few hours later more planes came. These were Israeli Mirage III fighters, armed with rockets and machine guns. As off-duty officers sunbathed on the deck, the fighters opened fire on the defenseless ship with rockets and machine guns.

A few minutes later a second wave of planes streaked overhead, French-built Mystere jets, which not only pelted the ship with gunfire but also with napalm bomblets, coating the deck with the flaming jelly. By now, the Liberty was on fire and dozens were wounded and killed, excluding several of the ship’s top officers.

The Liberty’s radio team tried to issue a distress call, but discovered the frequencies had been jammed by the Israeli planes with what one communications specialist called “a buzzsaw sound.” Finally, an open channel was found and the Liberty got out a message it was under attack to the USS America, the Sixth Fleet’s large aircraft carrier.

I bring up this false flag attack because it’s evidence of what Israel is capable of to further its agenda.

Two days ago, the Washington Post reported on a “chilling recording” that allegedly implicates Hamas in the abduction and murder of 3 Israeli teens:

The night of June 12, the phones didn’t stop ringing at the West Bank police emergency hotline. Police later said 757 calls lit up the lines. Of those, 155 were pranks. So when another call came – this one two minutes long and filled with singing, shouting and loud booms — the cops didn’t think too much of it.

“They’ve kidnapped me,” whispered a young man, later identified by his parents as Gilad Shaar, one of the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped that night and later killed.

“Hello?” the operator replied in an emergency recording, as described by the Times of Israel.

“Head down!” a man authorities suspect is a member of Hamas yelled in the background. “Head down!”

“Hello?” the operator said again, voice getting louder. “Hello?”

“Heads down, down this! Hands down!” the man yelled as groans sounded in the background. “Take the phone phone from him.” Seconds later, the men begin to cheer and sing a song in Arabic.

How convenient.

What exactly would Hamas gain by committing this horrendous act of violence? The Israeli response is predictable—the murder of these Israeli teenagers has provided Israel with an opportunity to unleash more collective punishment against Palestinians, and that is precisely what is happening, and it’s spiraling out of control.

Details of the revenge-killing of 16 year old Mohammad Abu Khdeir are now coming to light, and I should warn readers the details are gruesome. The autopsy of the charred body indicates Mohammad Abu Khdeir was forced to ingest gasoline then burned alive:

Saber Al-Aloul, the director of the Palestinian forensic institute, attended the autopsy which was carried out by Israeli doctors in Tel Aviv.

Al-A’wewy said Al-Aloul had reported fire dust material was found in Khdeir’s respiratory canal which meant “the boy had inhaled this material while he was burnt alive.”

Another incident of violence may have wider implications because it involves an American-Palestinian teenager nearly beat to death by masked IDF soldiers:

Fifteen-year-old Palestinian-American Tariq Abukhdeir, cousin of recent lynching victim Muhammed Abu Khudair, was brutally beaten by masked Israeli police on Thursday evening in the Shuafat neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. He has since been arrested and held without charge and denied medical treatment, according to his family and the rights group Addameer.

Tariq’s family lives in Tampa, Florida and have been on vacation in Palestine since early June. They are scheduled to return to the United States on 16 July. Tariq’s next court hearing is scheduled for Sunday, 6 July.

As photos of Tariq’s horrific facial bruises surfaced, so did two videos that show masked Israeli officers punching, kicking and dragging a handcuffed Palestinian in Shuafat.

I’m not going to include the videos here. If you want to see them, go to the link.

How will the US respond? This is an American teenager beat and held without charge by IDF thugs. Will John Kerry make some impotent statement?

How did the US respond when IDF thugs executed a Turkish American teenager on the Mavi Marmara?

The report of the fact-finding mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla released last week shows conclusively, for the first time, that US citizen Furkan Dogan and five Turkish citizens were murdered execution-style by Israeli commandos.

The report reveals that Dogan, the 19-year-old US citizen of Turkish descent, was filming with a small video camera on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara when he was shot twice in the head, once in the back and in the left leg and foot and that he was shot in the face at point blank range while lying on the ground.

The report says Dogan had apparently been “lying on the deck in a conscious or semi-conscious, state for some time” before being shot in his face.

Three years after that incident, Obama helped broker a deal between Turkey and Israel:

Israel issued a formal apology to Turkey and agreed to pay compensation over the Mavi Marmara killings of 2010 on March 22 after a phone conversation between the two countries’ premiers, Benjamin Netanyahu and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that was brokered by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Turkey accepted Israel’s apology, sources from the Prime Ministry confirmed, underlining that Israel had also agreed to ease its blockade on Gaza.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed an apology to the Turkish people for any error that may have led to the loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement for compensation,” the Israeli statement said. The statement said Netanyahu agreed with Erdoğan to normalize ties between Turkey and Israel, while Ankara agreed to cancel legal proceedings against Israeli soldiers who committed the raid against the Mavi Marmara vessel.

The problem with Netanyahu’s statement is there was no error that may have led to the loss of life. Those IDF commandoes intended to kill:

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said Sunday that the Palmer report on last year’s Gaza-bound flotilla is expected to be released this week. According to the newspaper, the UN-appointed panel to investigate the raid on the Mavi Marmara vessel has ruled that IDF soldiers boarded the ship with an intention to kill.

At what point will the US stop enabling the apartheid state of Israel?

By JC

If there is one thing you should read today, it is Robert Parry’s lengthy takedown of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence – the signing of which many of you are “celebrating” today. (Me? I’ll be spending time at the Arlee Celebration today):

On July Fourth, the people of the United States extravagantly celebrate the high-blown expressions on human rights that Thomas Jefferson penned in the Declaration of Independence – especially the noble phrase “all men are created equal.” But Jefferson really didn’t believe that or much else that he said and wrote during his lifetime. He was, in reality, a skilled propagandist and a world-class hypocrite.

Yet, rather than subject Jefferson to a rigorous examination for his multiple hypocrisies, many Americans insist on protecting Jefferson’s reputation. From the Left, there is a desire to shield the lofty principles contained in the Declaration. From the Right, there is value in pretending that Jefferson’s revisionist concept of the Constitution – one favoring states’ rights over the federal government – was the “originalist” view of that founding document.

So, Jefferson – perhaps more than any figure in U.S. history – gets a pass for what he really was: a self-absorbed aristocrat who had one set of principles for himself and another for everybody else. Beyond the glaring contradiction between his “all men are created equal” pronouncement and his racist views on African-American slaves, he also lectured others about the need for frugality and the avoidance of debt while he lived a life of personal extravagance and was constantly in arrears to creditors…

Jefferson may have been America’s original “chicken hawk,” talking cavalierly about other people’s blood as the “manure” of liberty but finding his own too precious to risk. …

The historical record increasingly makes Jefferson out to be a serial rapist, exploiting at least one and possibly more girls who were trapped on his property, who indeed were his property, and thus had little choice but to tolerate his sexual advances…

“A child raised every 2 years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man,” Jefferson wrote. “[I]n this, as in all other cases, providence has made our duties and our interests coincide perfectly”…

The reason the Tea Partiers get away with presenting themselves as “conservative constitutionalists” is that Thomas Jefferson engineered a revisionist interpretation of the Founding document, which – as written by the Federalists and ratified by the states – created a federal government that could do almost anything that Congress and the President agreed was necessary for the good of the country…

In his rise to power, Jefferson waged a nasty propaganda war against the Federalists as they struggled to form a new government and endeavored to stay out of a renewed conflict between Great Britain and France. Jefferson secretly funded newspaper editors who spread damaging personal rumors about key Federalists, particularly Hamilton who as Treasury Secretary was spearheading the new government’s formation.

Jefferson’s governmental actions almost always dovetailed with the interests of slaveholders and his own personal finances…

Today, we see Jefferson’s racist legacy in the nearly deranged hatred directed at the first African-American president and in the unbridled fury unleashed against the federal government that Barack Obama heads.

As unpleasant as it may be for Americans who prefer – especially on July Fourth – to ponder the pleasant image of Jefferson as the aristocratic republican with a taste for fine art and a fondness for free-thinking, it is well past time to look at the Declaration’s author as the person he really was, America’s founding sociopath.

Read the whole thing. And then go out and wave your sparklers until they fizzle out, along with our “democracy.”

by lizard

The situation in Ukraine hasn’t been getting much attention recently, but that doesn’t mean atrocities aren’t occurring. Once upon a time, “humanitarian interventionists” opposed the slaughter of citizens by a despotic regime. Three years ago, for example, over at Intelligent Discontent, Don wrote this post, titled Libyan Intervention: Another Example of Rational Humanitarian Foreign Policy. This is what Don had to say about the NATO-backed overthrow of the Gaddafi regime:

I don’t celebrate the death of anyone, but it’s hard to feel terribly sad about the fact that the Colonel is no longer in a position which allows him to torture and kill indiscriminately. Eventually, people rise up to take down despots. It’s often ugly, even brutal, but it will happen—and I’d prefer a national security policy which works to prevent those people from being slaughtered.

Now that a US-backed billionaire is doing the slaughtering, there is silence from those humanitarian interventionists. Here is a Reuters piece with a rather curious title: Ukraine forces attack rebel positions, Putin growls:

Ukrainian forces struck at pro-Russian separatist bases in eastern regions with air and artillery strikes on Tuesday after President Petro Poroshenko announced he would not renew a ceasefire but go on the offensive to rid Ukraine of “parasites”.

His decision quickly drew fire from Russian President Vladimir Putin who said Poroshenko had disregarded the advice of himself and German and French leaders. Putin said Poroshenko would now have to bear full responsibility for veering off the road to peace.

Put more bluntly, Poroshenko is bombing his own people with air strikes. The allegations that Gaddafi was doing this is what triggered the no fly zone that morphed into the NATO-backed regime change. Where is the rational humanitarian foreign policy now? The answer is it never existed, and in Ukraine, Poroshenko is killing his people to draw Russia into a trap at the behest of the Obama regime. Here is Paul Craig Roberts’ take:

The slaughter of Ukrainians on Washington’s orders by Washington’s stooge government in Kiev has worsened considerably in the past three months, producing more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing into Russia for protection from strikes against civilian housing from the air, artillery, and tanks.

Every effort by the Russian government to involve Washington, the European Union, and Kiev in negotiations to find a peaceful settlement has failed.

Washington is not interested in a settlement. Disturbed by its NATO vassals’ dependence on Russian energy and the growing economic relationships between Russia and Europe, Washington is at work through its Kiev proxy murdering citizens in eastern and southern parts of present-day Ukraine that once were part of Russia.

Washington has declared these civilians to be “terrorists” and is trying to force Russia to intervene militarily in order to protect them. Russia’s protective intervention would then be denounced by Washington as “invasion and annexation.” Washington would use this propaganda, which would blare from the Western media, to pressure Europe to support Washington’s sanctions against Russia. The sanctions would effectively destroy the existing economic relationships between Russia and Europe.

Now let’s go back to Don’s assessment of the actions of Obama’s foreign policy:

In the end, the US and NATO did an admirable job. They used a relatively inexpensive mission which gave the rebels breathing room in which they could defend themselves against a despot. And then the people of Libya did the rest. We can’t know what kind of government or future Libya will have, but I think we can be sure that it will be better than the past two generations.

Following eight years of disastrous foreign policy, this was another sign that the Obama administration is simply far more competent when it comes to national security and military issues than the previous administration. In less than three years, he’s overseen the elimination of Osama bin Laden, led the effort towards killing of some of his chief deputies, drawn up firm plans to finally end Bush’s destructive war in Iraq, and done his best to navigate the complex issues of the Arab spring and its aftermath.

I think its pretty clear, three years later, that US foreign policy continues to be disastrous. Will we hear any mea culpas from the interventionists? Probably not. With violence escalating in Ukraine, The Polish Wolf continues to be silent, and Don is busy making dick jokes.

And so it goes.

Happy B-Day America!

by lizard

What does it mean to aspire? Here is one definition: direct one’s hopes or ambitions toward achieving something.

Words like aspire come in handy when invoking the soaring platitudes of patriotism (platitude: a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful) and what can be more patriotic than America’s b-day, the 4th of July?

Don Pogreba has crafted a patriotic post for America’s b-day to counter the liberals hate America meme, and the title of this patriotic post is Liberals Can Love the United States, Too: A Message for Independence Day . But before getting to aspirational platitudes, the initial framing is, of course, smug partisanship:

I’m never going to enjoy a Toby Keith song about America, nor demand that my neighbors “love or leave” this country. It’s unlikely that I will ever refer to an American media outlet as traitorous, or demand that we build a fenced wall between the United States and Mexico. I don’t believe that, this, or any country has been chosen by a higher power to lead the world, and I don’t believe that the United Nations is using bike lanes as part of a global plot to strip the U.S. of its sovereignty. I do, however, love the United States.

So, after salting the field, how about some of that aspirational stuff:

I love America for what it aspires to be, and what is has the potential to become. The foundation of what this nation celebrates today, the Declaration of Independence, was more than a statement of revolution; it was a statement that governments exist to secure the rights of their citizens, and not to enrich and empower the few. That aspiration has been an inspiration for countless people, revolutionaries and dreamers, and a model for governments around the world for over 200 years.

I love America for its incredible diversity, for its commitment to the idea that our unmatched military might should be used for good, not dominance, its belief that every man and woman should have the opportunity to achieve his/her dreams, and its incredible optimism. I love America for its sense of community, its belief in civil rights and equality, and its capacity to be united.

Our government no longer exists (if it ever did) to secure the rights of its citizens. And our government is no longer a model (if it ever was) for governments around the world. As for this alleged capacity to be united? Well, considering how this post started, forgive me for not being able to suspend my disbelief.

Next, we are told that, alas, despite America’s best intentions, sometimes America deviates from its aspirational origins:

And yet, we fall so short of some of those aspirations. Our government, like any human institution, often falls short of the aspirations that guide it, and sometimes even deliberately does wrong. With all of our power and all of our wealth, we sometimes fail to do what is in the best interest of the world, or even our own citizens. As someone who loves his country, I cannot be silent when I believe we are on the wrong course. I cannot acquiesce when the government oversteps its power, or when it ignores its responsibility to the people it serves.

Using the possessive pronoun “our” when referring to America’s power and wealth is aspirational bordering on delusional. The power and wealth that has essentially destroyed American Democracy is transnational. Of course acknowledging that would undermine the colloquial notion of government this post relies on. Anyway, on to the next platitude:

Liberal criticism of our nation’s policies is often mistaken or mischaracterized by the Right as hatred of America, or a desire to leave. Nothing could be further from the truth. We criticize the government because we believe it can be better, do more, and infringe less. Blind devotion to one’s country is not patriotism; it is nothing more than subservience that Jefferson would have despised.

I agree, blind devotion to one’s country is not patriotism. Now, for a conclusion, how about a disingenuous call for working together?

The celebration of our independence isn’t limited to one side of the political spectrum. Patriotism isn’t about whose flag is flown higher or whose lapel pin is shinier; it’s about working together to make our nation what Jefferson and the other founders hoped it could be, an inspiration for the rest of the world:

The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it, and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

Have a wonderful fourth.

Despite Don’s assertion at the beginning of the post—I don’t believe that, this, or any country has been chosen by a higher power to lead the world—the quote he selects, that America can truly light the world, smacks of Manifest Destiny, or divine selection.

Americans need to get over themselves. The non-American world will not continue accepting our arrogance. That “unmatched military” Don refers to, patriotically of course, actually is matched by counter-forces increasingly putting US foreign policy in check.

So, as people enjoy this three day weekend celebrating American Independence by blowing shit up, terrorizing pets and combat vets, remember, the platitudes of American exceptionalism are skeletal and suffering osteoporosis.

Enjoy the 4th!

by lizard

Three Israeli teenagers were taken by unknown assailants and killed. In a normal country, this crime would be investigated to determine who was involved. Israel is not a normal country. Instead of investigating, Israel goes straight to collective punishment within hours of the bodies being discovered, hitting over 2 dozen targets:

Israel has bombed more than 30 targets across Gaza and shot dead at least one Palestinian just hours after the bodies of three missing Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank. The teens went missing 19 days ago, sparking a crackdown that has seen hundreds of Palestinians arrested and seven killed. On Monday, the teens were found dead near the city of Hebron; they had apparently been shot dead shortly after their capture. Israel has blamed Hamas, identifying two suspects it says are tied to the group. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed “Hamas will pay.” Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev also blamed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Also, the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager:

The discovery of a body in a Jerusalem forest on Wednesday raised suspicions that a missing Palestinian youth had been killed by Israelis avenging the deaths of three abducted Jewish teens.

Rock-throwing Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces in Jerusalem after the news, but no serious injuries were reported.

One way to approach the deranged actions of the apartheid state of Israel is divestment, something the Presbyterian church recently voted to impose:

The Presbyterian Church on Friday became the most prominent religious group in the United States to endorse divestment as a protest against Israeli policies toward Palestinians, voting to sell church stock in three companies whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories.

The General Assembly voted by a razor-thin margin — 310-303 — to sell stock in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. Two years ago, the General Assembly rejected a similar divestment proposal by two votes.

I ran across this Huffington Post article about why this move is oh so wrong:

Divestment is a terrible idea for Israel. That’s why, at its General Assembly in Detroit this June 14-21, Presbyterians should vote down any measure which contemplates divestment from companies doing business in Israel.

Why? History. Context.

The laws I helped get passed into law in two U.S. states were designed not just to address the problem of anti-Catholic discrimination; they were meant to attack the very structure of the province within which that discrimination flourished. The entity “Northern Ireland” had been maintained over decades by so-called “emergency” laws which, among other things, had allowed some of its citizens to be detained without charge or right to counsel and stripped of the right to a jury trial for certain charges. Inequality was built into its structure: in voting, employment, housing.

The MacBride Principles campaign of the 1980s helped lead to a dramatic shift: a peace process which began in the 1990s and culminated in the signing of peace agreements on Good Friday, 1998. Those agreements, one among political parties in Northern Ireland and the other between the British and Irish governments, contained sweeping provisions which ended direct British rule of Northern Ireland and changed Northern Ireland’s system of government, creating new governmental institutions, allowing greater political participation and guaranteeing certain civil rights. Today, Martin McGuinness, an Irish Republican who once spent time in a British prison, is the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

The Sullivan Principles for South Africa had a similar dual purpose. They weren’t meant just to remedy the unequal position of blacks in the country; they were designed to help do away with the apartheid government itself. The divestment campaign worked: the apartheid government fell in 1994. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated South Africa’s President on May 10 of that year.

Seen in that context, using the same blunt tool against the State of Israel makes no sense. Do we really want to subvert the nation of Israel?

The modern State of Israel came into being shortly after the end of WWII, when Hitler’s mass murder of six million Jews left the world aghast. One of the pastors of my church, the late John Boyle, was a 19-year-old sergeant in the U.S. Army when his unit helped liberate the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. What John saw there led him to become a Presbyterian minister; he vowed to be on the side of whatever was against the forces that had led to the carnage he had witnessed. He never forgot it. We should not either.

Many Presbyterians of good will are rightly concerned with the plight of Palestinians. I am one of them. But divestment is not the way to help.

There is another way: engage. Reach out. Travel, listen, learn, meet, speak, write, lobby, donate, invest, pray, press for change. We can, with God’s help, change the world, without wielding the weapon of divestment in a place it does not belong.

Sorry, but this argument is a bunch of crap. It’s the same manipulative emotional appeal exploiting the atrocities committed by Nazis (and enabled by what other countries?) to justify Israeli atrocities against Palestinians.

The Presbyterian church made the right call—boycott, divest, sanction.

By JC

By now, many folks who have paid attention to the current onslaught of Supreme Court rulings are enraged that the SCOTUS chose to uphold corporate “rights” against things like mandating certain forms of birth control. Of course, most liberal and moderate indignation over the Court’s decision doesn’t seem to include the origins of RFRA, the law that the decision is based on.

As reported in the local news rag:

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the high court ruled that family-owned for-profit corporations are protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and as such, do not have to abide by an Affordable Care Act provision that conflicts with business owners’ religious beliefs: “The contraceptive mandate, as applied to closely held corporations, violates RFRA.”

So sure, we discover that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is the bedrock of the Court’s decision. Well, where did the RFRA come from? Seems that liberals and democrats have nobody to blame but themselves. Via the Volokh’s Conspiracy’s Sasha Volokh:

It’s true that RFRA passed unanimously in the House and nearly unanimously in the Senate — in 1993, when Congress was controlled by Democrats — and was signed by Bill Clinton, and everyone now on the Court seems to accept the constitutionality of RFRA… Justice Stevens is the only one who ever showed any sympathy for the argument that RFRA violates the Establishment Clause, in his concurrence in City of Boerne v. Flores. Nonetheless, Justice Stevens may have been right as a philosophical matter…

In their zeal to prostrate themselves in front of the growing evangelical movements, and to not be seen as anti-religious, democrats saw fit to plant their seeds in a law that now will be used to justify many further religious exemptions. Back to the Missoulian article:

Rep. David “Doc” Moore said it’s hard to understand all the ramifications of a ruling on the first day it’s issued. However… Moore said the Affordable Care Act was poorly written, and the Supreme Court’s ruling illustrates the weakness of the legislation. The decision raises many questions about the overall effectiveness of the law, as well as questions about other exclusions companies can receive.

“If they can exclude birth control, or contraception, what else would a company try to exclude? Chemotherapy? Is their plan going to be so gutted because they can find some objection to it spiritually that life-saving treatment will not be covered?” Moore said.

And of course, other republican politicians are lauding this ruling:

In a statement, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said he and 19 other state attorneys general filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case, and he lauded the decision “that President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) violates the religious freedoms of America’s family owned businesses.”

“Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case upholds Americans’ religious liberties,” Fox said. “Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the mandatory Medicaid-expansion provisions of Obamacare, and today, the Supreme Court struck down those offensive provisions of Obamacare that violate the First Amendment religious freedoms of America’s family business owners.”

So, given that the SCOTUS has upheld the First Amendment religious freedoms of corporations, what will be the next shoe to drop? Now that the SCOTUS has ruled that federal regulations are at odds with many religious “freedoms,” it is just a matter of time till the courts are overrun with corporate attempts to use religion to justify an exemption from regulation. It is a sweeping decision that encompasses far more that just contraception, as Jonathan Turley nicely describes:

The [Hobby Lobby] decision has sweeping application – well beyond these companies or the 49 for-profit corporations that have claimed such exemptions. The ruling addresses the very essence of a religious claim and the very essence of a corporate entity.

Closely-held corporations are not as limited as it might seem. I agree with [Justice] Ginsberg that the implications are sweeping. The closely-held corporations represent a huge number of businesses. As I mentioned on CNN, the large corporations are the least likely to demand such exemptions. There are millions of family businesses that may not object not just to the ACA but renew objections to discrimination laws that force such businesses to serve same-sex weddings or engage in other activities that violate their religious beliefs. This is much like Heller and the recognition of individual gun rights. We are still working out the details on how far that goes years after the decision.

Thanks Democrats, for bring us RFRA, the “Original Sin.” And stay tuned. This case will reverberate for decades.

If you want to read about the nature of The Original Sin, Volokh brother Eugene does a good job of describing it:

Some people have argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act shouldn’t have applied in Hobby Lobby because the employer mandate doesn’t require employers to actually do anything they see as sinful. The employers aren’t required to use the implantation-preventing contraceptives that they see as immoral. They aren’t required to administer or even handle them. They are just required to provide insurance policies that their employees may then choose to use to buy those contraceptives. Is that a real burden on belief?

That question would be answered “no” if a RFRA claim is brought by an employer who thinks the only relevant sin is actually using the implantation-preventing contraceptives. If the employer is called to the stand and asked, “Do you think that it is religiously wrong for you to provide this insurance?” and the employer says, “no, that’s fine, only using the contraceptives is sinful,” then the employer has admitted that the employer mandate does not impose a substantial burden on his beliefs.

But, unsurprisingly, many people believe that, when some behavior is wrong, many sorts of complicity with that behavior are wrong, too. Many secular people believe this. The law takes this view, in all sorts of contexts. Religious people believe it, too.

If it is a sin (or complicit with a sin–however far you want to try and stretch complicity), then no federal regulation can compel your company to do it, under Hobby Lobby. It’s that simple, and what is considered “sin” will be about as creative as the crazy embodied in today’s ultra-religious crusades. Brothers Volokh, while being conservative constitutional lawyers, have a good handle on where this is going. And Jonathan Turley always brings a great libertarian bent to these sorts of constitutional issues, writing to great effect on the nature of the Obama imperial presidency.

Democrats on the other hand, just prefer to demonize 5 men on the Supreme Court, as if they themselves had nothing to do with this outcome (well, Baucus voted for Roberts, but I digress, Roberts already paid Baucus back with his vote in favor of the ACA mandate). And what we will witness from dems and liberals, is nothing more than a huge outpouring of ineffectual, and misplaced indignity. Little do they see how their simple pandering to the religious right in passing RFRA in 1993 will have a long-standing, and monumental fallout on american society.

by lizard

During the Bush era, those hippie dissidents who didn’t worship our warmonger president with praise and fealty were relegated to Free Speech Zones, and if they stepped out of line, they were arrested. This from The American Conservative (Dec, 2003):

The Justice Department is now prosecuting Brett Bursey, who was arrested for holding a “No War for Oil” sign at a Bush visit to Columbia, S.C. Local police, acting under Secret Service orders, established a “free speech zone” half a mile from where Bush would speak. Bursey was standing amid hundreds of people carrying signs praising the president. Police told Bursey to remove himself to the “free speech zone.”

Bursey refused and was arrested. Bursey said that he asked the policeman if “it was the content of my sign, and he said, ‘Yes, sir, it’s the content of your sign that’s the problem.’” Bursey stated that he had already moved 200 yards from where Bush was supposed to speak. Bursey later complained, “The problem was, the restricted area kept moving. It was wherever I happened to be standing.”

Bursey was charged with trespassing. Five months later, the charge was dropped because South Carolina law prohibits arresting people for trespassing on public property. But the Justice Department—in the person of U.S. Attorney Strom Thurmond Jr.—quickly jumped in, charging Bursey with violating a rarely enforced federal law regarding “entering a restricted area around the President of the United States.” If convicted, Bursey faces a six-month trip up the river and a $5000 fine. Federal magistrate Bristow Marchant denied Bursey’s request for a jury trial because his violation is categorized as a “petty offense.” Some observers believe that the feds are seeking to set a precedent in a conservative state such as South Carolina that could then be used against protesters nationwide.

That kind of dissent wasn’t tolerated, and conservatives didn’t seem to have a problem with that.

Now, a different kind of zone is making headlines, the buffer zone for anti-abortion “sidewalk counselors”. The Supreme Court is suddenly concerned that a movement which has utilized terrorist tactics like bombing, out-right assassination, stalking, trespassing and criminal mischief are being denied their free speech. The very real, very legitimate fear from women and staff at the (ever-decreasing) clinics where abortions are performed don’t matter to the conservative justices decreeing their hypocrisy from the bench.

There is a potential implication to today’s ruling regarding buffer zones worth noting, and that’s whether or not the buffer zones imposed by ordinances like Missoula’s aggressive solicitation ordinance are similar enough to withstand Supreme Court scrutiny.

They’re not sure in Worcester, Mass:

Today’s Supreme Court ruling, Wunsch says, is important for Worcester in another way. Just last week, the First Circuit Court upheld a previous court decision denying an injunction against all but one part of Worcester’s two panhandling ordinances, which were passed by the City Council in January 2013. One of the ordinances bans “aggressive panhandling,” which in one way is defined as soliciting donations for any cause within 20 feet of the entrance to a bus stop, theater, ATM machine, or any other “place of public assembly.” This “20-foot buffer zone,” Wunsch says, is “way more of an interference [of freedom of speech] than the reproductive clinic law.”

Those asking for help on public streets and sidewalks, Wunsch says, should have the same rights as those protesting or counseling in front of health clinics, like Planned Parenthood. But now, Worcester will allow speech immediately outside of the Pleasant Street clinic, while panhandlers will be required to stay outside of 20-foot buffer zones.

“It’s almost impossible to see how that can stand in light of the McCullen ruling,” says Wunsch.

And they’re not sure in Lowell, Mass (this article is from April, 2014):

Lowell officials have told U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock they will voluntarily suspend enforcement of the city’s panhandling ordinance if Woodlock agrees to postpone a decision on an injunction against the city and wait for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion-clinic buffer zones.

A week before the Supreme Court decision, a first circuit judgement upheld Worcester’s panhandling law:

The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a previous decision supporting Worcester’s ordinances prohibiting aggressive panhandling.

“The First Circuit upheld the district court decision not to enjoin the city from enforcing the ordinances,” said City Manager Edward Augustus in a statement. “The court agreed that the ordinances regulate behavior, not speech, and are motivated by legitimate and substantial public safety concerns.”

So if the fear women experience going to a clinic that performs abortions doesn’t warrant buffer zones due to legitimate and substantial public safety concerns, why should there be buffer zones imposed on panhandling?

A twitter conversation I had with Mayor Krauss offers a condensed back and forth that I found illuminating. After failing to format a screen shot, I’ll just reproduce the text:

Mayor Krauss: “aggressive panhandling” & “gauntlets” at abortion clinics. Of course you’re all consistently pro free speech? Or for controls? #mtpol

William Skink: .@MayorKrauss is there a history of panhandlers firebombing private property?

Mayor Krauss: “@madpoet19: is there a history of panhandlers firebombing…?”or stabbing businessmen to death? “Free speech” is the subject, not violence

William Skink: @MayorKrauss I think both confuse speech with physical acts of violence. to justify ban on sitting, example of woman chased by transient.

Mayor Krauss: “@madpoet19: “Intimidation”, “perceived threat” vs speech seems to be the issue with both. You protect speech w/o equivocation?

There was a little more, but that’s the gist.

To add a little more context to the juxtaposition of violence represented in the above tweets, my example of firebombing, which I mentioned earlier is just one of many terrorist tactics used by the anti-abortion extremists, was countered with the example of a random act of violence that left a prominent Billings photographer dead. And why did this man get stabbed? If you follow the logic of this Billings Gazette article, it’s because he gave money to panhandlers:

People who work near the Fargo Hotel Building, 14 N. 24th St., say the generosity of Michael S. Sample, 66, attracted a steady stream of panhandlers to the area and may have contributed to his death.

Sample died Thursday after being stabbed three times, allegedly by Zachariah James Wiseman, 23, who has been charged with deliberate homicide.

People were frequently seen knocking on the door of the building asking for money.

“Usually there’s about 10 to 15 people that come by,” said Tyler Myers, an alignment technician at Whalen Tire, 2318 First Ave. N., which is across the street from the Fargo Building. “Everybody knows he goes and gives out money for free.”

And here is how the Billings Gazette article rounds out its victim-blaming hit-piece on Michael Sample:

It is unclear whether Wiseman was homeless. Police records have an address for Wiseman in Billings, said Lt. Kevin Iffland. He is not listed as a transient.

There is no information on Wiseman’s occupation, Iffland said.

From across the street, Myers said he had seen Sample give people he believed to be transients cash on many occasions, cracking the door to his business or passing money directly through the mail slot. When he didn’t come to the door right away, people would wait or badger business people for long periods of time.

“Those guys were very persistent,” Myers said. “They would be knocking on his door for half an hour, an hour.”

Myers said his manager told him about an incident where Sample had been attacked by panhandlers in the past. But no reports had been made to the Billings Police Department, Iffland said.

Gene Burgad, owner of The Rex, which shares an alley with the Fargo Building, had made similar observations.

“He would give them money right out of his wallet,” Burgad said.

Burgad said employees occasionally have to ask panhandlers to leave their property when they stop at The Rex to ask for money.

“There’s people that sometimes bug my customers,” Burgad said. “I will just walk to my car, and people will ask me for money, occasionally.”

It’s really sad this tragedy was immediately turned into a homeless/panhandling story when, as admitted in the article, it’s “unclear whether Wiseman was homeless.

The fear generated by stories like this ensure support for the constitutionally dubious buffer zones for panhandlers. But after yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, supporters of these zones may want to rethink their approach.

by lizard

This post is going to be a sort of potpourri of disgust directed toward the despicable Obama regime, comprised of some recent headlines people should be aware of.

One of the big stories getting attention over the weekend was a story from the journalist James Risen about the mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater:

Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

While the story is important, it should be noted we’re lucky to even have James Risen reporting on this, considering if the Obama administration had its way, Risen would already be in prison. Here is an article with the most recent developments in that case and a little background for context. From the link:

Risen is the author of the 2006 book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” A chapter of that book detailed a CIA plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. Prosecutors believe that Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency operative charged with leaking classified information, gave Risen information that was used for this chapter.

Because of this chapter in Risen’s book, this Pulitzer-winning journalist has become just one of many media targets in the Obama regime’s war against “leaks” (the one’s not purposely leaked by his administration to further political agendas).

One of the individuals who used to have to deal with the media on behalf of the Obama regime is the former press secretary, Robert Gibbs. Well, he has a new job now, and that job will entail an attack on teachers and the unions that protect them:

While it is not surprising that those who worked for a corporate Democrat like President Barack Obama have moved on to shilling for Big Business after they leave the White House, usually the opportunism is less crass than this. Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s former press secretary, has signed on through his public relations firm to lead a national PR campaign to destroy teachers unions.

Incite Agency, founded by both Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, will manage a nationwide public relations campaign to build support for lawsuits against teacher tenure, seniority, and other job protections won by teachers unions. If Incite Agency’s campaign is successful and the cases are won in court, teachers unions would be crippled, if not obliterated – opening the way to privatizing public schools and making public education a hollow commitment for millions of American children.

Yeah for corporate Democrats! And after today’s anticipated Supreme Court ruling, unions will become even more crippled:

On Sunday night, the leaders of America’s public-sector labor unions will sleep fitfully, if they manage to sleep at all.

The source of their anxiety — brewing now for months — is the Supreme Court’s impending decision in Harris v. Quinn, expected to be handed down Monday morning alongside Hobby Lobby, the more high-profile birth control case. In a worst-case scenario for labor and the left, Harris v. Quinn has the potential to cripple public-sector unions.

On its surface, the case deals with home care workers in Illinois who care for the disabled. The plaintiff, Pamela Harris, serves as the caretaker to her son Josh, who suffers from a rare genetic syndrome. The elder Harris receives Medicaid funds to do so and essentially functions as a state employee.

Many state-supported home care workers in Illinois are represented by the union SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana. Under the contract between the union and the state, all home care workers covered under the contract are required to pay a fee to SEIU to cover the expenses associated with bargaining, whether or not they want to be union members.

This arrangement avoids what unions commonly refer to as freeloading — that is, benefiting from the union’s work without helping to underwrite it. Since unions have to represent all the employees in a particular bargaining unit, they commonly seek requirements in their contracts that all workers pay such “fair share” fees.

The Supreme Court has already affirmed that workers can be required to pay fees to public-sector unions to cover bargaining costs, though not political activities, in its 1977 Abood case.

But with Harris v. Quinn, Abood could be turned on its head.

Moving on to killing Americans with drones, a few weeks ago the infamous drone memo was finally released for public consumption:

The memo authorized the U.S. military or the CIA to carry out a strike against Awlaki as long as they gave assurances there was no alternative.

“In the present circumstances, as we understand the facts, the U.S. citizen in question has gone overseas and become part of the forces of an enemy with which the United States is engaged in an armed conflict; that person is engaged in continual planning and direction of attacks upon U.S. persons from one of the enemy’s overseas bases of operations; the U.S. government does not know precisely when such attacks will occur; and a capture operation would be infeasible,” Barron wrote.

“At least where, as here, the target’s activities pose a ‘continued and imminent threat of violence or death’” to Americans, the killing would be considered a lawful act of war, the memo concluded.

Jailing journalists, destroying teachers unions and killing Americans with drones isn’t enough for this regime. Faced with a humanitarian crisis at our southern border, the president (who is deporting immigrants at a faster rate than his predecessor) is asking Congress for a cool 2 billion to speed up deporting thousands of children back to the various hells they were desperately trying to escape:

The Obama administration will go to Congress Monday seeking an emergency $2 billion appropriation for stepped-up jailing and deportation of immigrants, particularly the wave of child migrants in south Texas, White House officials have revealed.

The unnamed officials told the New York Times Saturday that Obama would send a letter to Congress Monday about the new enforcement actions against immigrants, to be followed by a detailed request for funds a week later.

Obama will seek stronger enforcement powers, proposing new authority for the Department of Homeland Security to speed up the screening and deportation of child migrants from Central America.

These are just a smattering of headlines from the last few weeks that expose the true nature of a regime Democrats have been enabling for 6 years. Failing to acknowledge how deeply disturbing Obama’s policies are increases the chance that whoever takes the helm of the Democrat party for the 2016 presidential run will continue these terrible authoritarian trends.

by lizard

There is a water crisis, accompanied by an appeal to the UN, that one would normally expect to see in a developing country in Latin America or Africa. But this is Detroit:

When the United Nations reaches out to resolve a water or sanitation crisis, it is largely across urban slums and remote villages in Asia, Africa or Latin America and the Caribbean.

But a severe water crisis in the financially bankrupt city of Detroit in the U.S. state of Michigan has prompted several non-governmental organisations and activists to appeal for U.N. intervention in one of the world’s richest countries.

“This is unprecedented,” said Maude Barlow, founder of the Blue Planet Project, a group that advocates water as a human right.

“I visited the city and worked with the Detroit People’s Water Board several weeks ago and came away terribly upset,” she told IPS.

She pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly African Americans, are having their water ruthlessly turned off.

Families with children, the elderly and the sick, cannot bathe, flush their toilets or cook in their own homes, she added.

“This is the worst violation of the human right to water I have ever seen outside of the worst slums in the poorest countries in failed states of the global South,” said Barlow, a one-time senior advisor on water to a former President of the U.N. General Assembly.

Unbelievable, but not unexpected in a state that passed an anti-democratic emergency management law bestowing king-like power to whatever technocrat is appointed to municipalities in crisis. This law was passed in lieu of actually understanding what’s going on (hint: class war). From the link:

Public Act 4 is anti-democratic. It is unconstitutional. It is bad policy — it doesn’t work. However, its real danger is the way it creates a debilitating body politic. The idea that an emergency manager — a hero can come into a community and singlehandedly solve all the problems is dangerous in two key ways. First, it is a devious political and social deception. Second, it destroys the faith Americans traditionally have in democratic government.

Governor Snyder says he wants to help Detroit. The mainstream media is using its force to paint a horrifying portrait of Detroit. The image is familiar. It includes a shrinking population, incompetent political leadership and a growing and apathetic underclass. This is not an accurate picture. While Detroit has lost population, there is no mention of the role of bank and tax foreclosure to speed the rapid population decline. There is no talk of the high cost of insurance in the city, the lack of major retail and the 200 million or more spent outside of the city for groceries. There is a lot of talk about violence, but no talk about the seeming economic development embargo on the city of Detroit. The emergency manager is supposed to a hero. After receiving training by the Snyder administration, s/he will come in and do what no elected official and collective community action can — save Detroit. This is a destructive fiction. The Detroit Public School system, the City of Highland Park and the City of Benton Harbor prove that emergency managers are not miracle workers or supernatural saviors. Detroit doesn’t need an emergency manager. Detroit needs emergency reconstruction. We don’t need a consultant. We need community and civic engagement. It will take elected officials, labor, pastors, parents and citizens at large to turn this ship around before it collides into the impending iceberg of increasing decline.

The wealthy in this country are getting nervous, and they should be. At some point, and without warning, a catalyzing event could provide the spark to wider class conflagration. There are some within the upper echelons that know this, and Nick Hanauer is one of them:

Though Charles and David Koch may be grabbing the headlines promoting a 1% neo-feudal agenda, not everyone in the upper echelons of the American plutocracy is on board. Nick Hanauer, a super rich venture capitalist, recently wrote a piece condemning neoliberalism – often called “trickle-down economics” – saying the current economic system is not only unfair and causing resentment but counter-productive to a thriving middle class saying “These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base.”

Hanauer also offered a warning to his fellow 1%ers – The Pitchforks Are Coming.

Hanauer believes the commercial oligarchy that owns and operates America is living in a fantasy world when they think revolution can not happen in the US, telling his fellow plutocrats “I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction. Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world.”

Yep. Here is an excerpt from Hanauer’s op-ed:

What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.

That last line is curious. Why is it going to be especially terrible for the wealthy? If I had to hazard a guess, it would be this: they have been insulated from reality for so long that when the consequences of the self-destructive financial system that’s created misery for the under-classes for decades finally reaches their gated communities it will be quite traumatizing.

And here’s what I have to say about that: you reap what you sow.

by lizard

There are so many things that just leave me shaking my head. In Missoula, our community continues to try and wrap their heads around how to address aggressive panhandling. If you follow this issue, and you are confused by this article, I’m sure you’re not alone.

After Judge Jenks told City Council last month that fines are not a deterrent for the core problem makers, and that jail is more of a deterrent, the title of today’s article—Jail ‘luxury’ a problem in clearing aggressive panhandlers, Missoula officials say—seems to imply the exact opposite. From the article:

Jail can be a great getaway.

There, you can get a meal, a shave and some rest, and watch television.

“That’s a luxury of life if you’re living on the street,” said Missoula City Councilman Jon Wilkins.

And that’s one problem for people who want to clear downtown of aggressive panhandlers.

Another problem?

Many of those troublemakers have addictions and mental health issues, but the Missoula County Detention Facility isn’t set up to treat them, and the city of Missoula doesn’t have a place that can address those conditions, either.

What this article doesn’t say is that mental health providers are experiencing a legislative-imposed funding crisis from turning away federal medicaid money. Here is an article from 2013 describing how mental health providers were banking on the medicaid expansion component of the ACA:

The recent mass killings in Tucson, Aurora and Newtown have sparked public conversations about the deficiencies in state-run mental health systems across the United States. But few states are poised to spend their own money to reverse as much as a decade of budget cutbacks in those areas.

Instead, many of them are counting on an infusion of federal mental-health dollars. Because Medicaid includes mental-health benefits, those states that opt into the Medicaid expansion included in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act will be able to make mental health coverage available to thousands of their citizens who do not now have it.

Obviously expanding medicaid wouldn’t magically solve all the problems we see downtown, but not having those federal dollars significantly contributes to the lack of resources our community has to expand solution-oriented options.

Instead of funding solutions, the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve have been pumping over a trillion dollars into the black hole of Wall Street. After nearly 6 years of this “Quantitative Easing” what do we have to show for it? 95% of the economic recovery has gone to the 1%, and our GDP dropped an alarming 2.9% in the first quarter of this year. From Forbes:

The latest data shows the U.S. economy contracted significantly more than previously estimated in the first quarter of this year.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released its third and final estimate of real gross domestic product for the first three months of 2014. The release showed output in the U.S. declining at an annual rate of 2.9%. This is relative to fourth quarter 2013, when real GDP grew 2.6%.

This is the class war no one wants to talk about. Well, some people do, like Paul Craig Roberts. Here’s an excerpt from his latest diatribe:

Look at the labels on your clothes, your shoes, your eating and cooking utensils, your computers, whatever. US professional jobs such as software engineering have been moved offshore. An economy with an offshored economy is not an economy. All of this happened in full view, while well-paid free market shills declared that Americans were benefiting from giving America’s middle class jobs to China and India.

I have been exposing these lies for a decade or two, which is why I am no longer invited to speak at American universities or to American economic associations. Economists love the money that they receive for lying. A truth teller is the last thing that they want in their midst.

An official decline of -2.9 percent in the first quarter implies a second quarter GDP decline. Two declines in a row is the definition of recession.

Imagine the consequences of a recession. It means that years of unprecedented Quantitative Easing failed to revive the economy. It means that years of Keynesian fiscal deficits failed to revive the economy. Neither fiscal nor monetary policy worked.

What then can revive the economy?

Nothing except to force the return of the economy that the anti-American corporations moved offshore.

This corporate attack on American citizens couldn’t have been carried out without the collusion of neoliberal Democrats. We are now so far to the right that an establishment Republican actually reached out to African American voters to thwart a tea-party insurgency in Mississippi. In that race, the Tea Party candidate was Chris McDaniel, a guy who proudly proclaimed “I will do nothing for you” to potential voters, then waffled when asked if he would have voted for Katrina disaster money.

Insane. And enough people supported this guy that he was actually expected to win? Well, as Dan Brooks points out, voters can be pretty damn stupid, like the 351 people who voted for Valerie Stamey:

I don’t mean to alarm you, but last week in Ravalli County, 351 people voted to reelect treasurer Valerie Stamey.

The primary happened while she was on paid leave, pending the results of an investigation that has spent several months and $70,000 trying to figure out what happened while she was in office, and 351 people voted to hire her again. That doesn’t include the people who wanted to cast their ballots for Stamey but, when they pulled the lever, only poured soft-serve onto the floor of Dairy Queen until they were asked to leave.

As America transforms into an idiocracy, even the 1% is worried, as evidenced by recent comments from the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein:

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of investment bank Goldman Sachs, called income inequality “very destabilizing” during an appearance on CBS “This Morning” on Thursday.

Arguing that the growing division between the top and bottom of income earners drives political divisions that makes it difficult to legislate and “deal with problems” and therefore “drive growth,” he said, “It’s a very big issue and something that has to be dealt with.”

Blankfein himself can be counted among the 1 percent who have been grabbing most of the country’s income growth, as he is the world’s best paid banker with a $2 million annual salary and tens of millions more in bonuses, adding up to a net worth of $450 million.

And that’s coming from someone who is truly well off, unlike Hillary Clinton, who apparently doesn’t understand what being “dead broke” means.

by lizard

When it comes to assessing the movements on the global chessboard, I go back and forth between devious calculation and brazen incompetence. Maybe describing the geopolitical game as chess-like is being too generous. It could just be a game of checkers, quickly and stupidly played after throwing back a few too many pours of single malt scotch. Or vodka. Or Sake.

In Iraq, ISIS has allegedly taken a refinery that produces 1/3 of Iraq’s oil (RT):

Radicals from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, or ISIL) have been attacking the refinery, which is responsible for supplying a third of Iraq’s oil, for the past ten days.

The militants are planning to hand over the complex to local tribes for day-to-day management, BBC quoted a rebels’ spokesman as saying, adding that the militants will continue to make their way to Baghdad.

I imagine that’s a pretty big deal.

This whirlwind called ISIS (or ISIL) is hard to track. I always appreciate b’s take at Moon of Alabama, where the trolls come out in force for a reason. His latest post points out the stated ambitions of ISIS:

Elijah J. Magnier has an interesting interview with an ISIS commander, Abu Baqr-al-Janabi, in Baghdad. There are plans for ISIS to take the city and there are apparently sleeper cells of fighters waiting for the big attack signal. But, says the commander, ISIS and the attached other forces, will first have to consolidate their positions and eliminate Iraqi government position in their back. The Iraqi government is already giving up some outer position and is consolidating its side by securing only Baghdad, the south and some economically important assets.

The 300 military “advisers” the U.S. had announced to send to Iraqi headquarters will likely never arrive. There is disagreement over their legal status and the Iraqi government, given the U.S. commitment to another regime change in Baghdad, may well conclude that these soldiers would likely be malign actors rather than trustworthy allies. The Maliki government, like the Iranians, probably sees the whole ISIS attack as the result of a U.S. conspiracy.

My hunch for now is that ISIS will not go for the big fight in Baghdad in the near term but will rather try to launch some substantial diversion elsewhere. In the introduction of the interview Magnier writes:

ISIS’s aim is not Iraq and Syria, it is the Levant and beyond. It includes Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and more. “No Limits”, as I am told.

A different perspective sees Israel all over this ISIS push to Baghdad, as best summarized by Michael Whitney’s latest piece at Counterpunch. Apparently the Israeli desire to split up Iraq can be traced to this guy, Oded Yinon. The quote from Whitney’s article I’m selecting is a bit clunky and should be read in full context:

The plan was the brainstorm of Oded Yinon who saw Iraq as a serious threat to Israel’s hegemonic aspirations, so he cooked up a plan to remedy the problem. Here’s a blurb from Yinon’s primary work titled, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties”, which is the roadmap that will be used to divide Iraq:

“Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization.” (A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties, Oded Yinon, monabaker.com)

Here at home there is the faintest simmering of protest against ANOTHER invasion of Iraq. I think a lot of people, even the ones paying just the slightest attention, are dumbfounded by what’s being reported.

And it’s from that nearly worthless corporate reporting a small gem appeared, a brief glimmer that even carefully sculpted anchors at Fox News are not total robots incapable of the tiniest pushback.

Ladies and gentlemen, Megyn Kelly:

I offer that as evidence of the brazen incompetence argument.

Another argument comes from the right, and I think a nice representation of that comes from an exchange I had with Douglas Ernst, a gracious fellow who let me start commenting again after a period of being put in time out.

Here is my comment and his response:

lizard 19: ISIS was strengthened by US-backed efforts to topple Assad and armed in part with weapon caches “liberated” from the NATO-imposed regime change in Libya. now ISIS is being used to get Maliki out in order to insert a more compliant stooge, like the Neocon favorite, Chalabi.

Douglas Ernst: Guess who’s back? Back again. Lizard’s back. Tell a friend! Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back?

“Neocon”? Are you now arguing that Barack Obama and his national security team are all a bunch of “neocons”? They’re in charge. The buck stops with him (no matter how much he tries to pretend that it doesn’t), and the last time I checked the big bad BushHitler (one word) is no longer in office.

There weren’t any U.S. “efforts” to topple Assad, if by “effort” you mean a serious attempt to implement a coherent foreign policy. There wasn’t much more than foreign policy finger painting going on, which just smeared the mess around.

As I said: this is what “leading from behind” gets us. Obama sloughs off real leadership in favor of allowing the chips to fall where they may, and then he essentially says everyone is to blame. He passes around enough bombs (or drops them) to give the appearance that he has some sort of plan, when in reality he has no clue what he’s doing — he’s just a community organizer who is making things go “boom” while the world’s worst actors on the world stage laugh at him. If you’re a fan of chaos — and terrorist organizations thrive on it — Mr. Obama is the guy you want in office.

He later, in the post, said boots need to be on the ground in Iraq. Again.

America, fuck yeah.

by lizard

Ochenski commends John Walsh in his weekly column today for speaking from experience regarding Iraq:

As the only Iraq War veteran in the Senate, Walsh brings a unique perspective to Congress, where wealthy old men and women send largely poor young Americans to suffer and die in dubious wars. A prime example is the Iraq War, initiated by President George W. Bush in 2003. That war was supposedly brought to an end by Obama in 2011. Truth is, despite his best efforts to keep American troops on Iraqi soil, both the government and people of Iraq decided to stick with the agreement they had with Bush to pull our military out, and Obama couldn’t convince them otherwise.

But three years later, as that unfortunate nation disintegrates back into the sectarian violence that has plagued it for more than a thousand years, President Obama as well as the legion of congressional warhawks are trying to convince us that America’s role in Iraq has not come to an end. And although Obama promised not to put “boots on the ground,” he sent in 300 so-called “advisers” late last week.

Ochenski goes on to remind us that “advisers” is the precise term used a generation ago when non-booted Americans were sent to Vietnam to, you know, “advise”.

There is no appetite, globally or domestically, to see America re-involve itself in Iraq. The region is already coming apart at the seams due primarily to US meddling. Here is b at Moon of Alabama with a post titled Iraq: The U.S. Has No Role In This, which opens with this:

The ISIS/former Baathist/Sunni alliance in Iraq is consolidating its position in north-west Iraq. It has captured border post towards Syria and now also towards Jordan. The last item will let red lights flash in Washington and elsewhere.

The ridiculous position of the United States, supporting, arming and training Jihadi insurgents in Syria while seeing them as a danger in Iraq and elsewhere, is coming more to the front. What are we to think of such lunatic headline? Kerry Arrives in Cairo on Trip to Help Form New Iraqi Government.

Yes, lunacy. Here is an article about Kerry’s visit:

US Secretary of State John Kerry says president Barack Obama is working with Congress to resolve differences on delivering withheld financial aid to Egypt. Kerry was speaking at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry on Sunday, following a meeting with the new Egyptian President Abdel- Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo.

Kerry praised al-Sisi for his approach to the discussions, which centered on bilateral ties, strategic partnership and security. He called the current situation a moment of “high stakes” and “great opportunity” for Egypt. Kerry says all Egyptians want better economic opportunities, greater freedoms, a free press and the rule of law.

Kerry said al-Sisi appeared to be serious about achieving those goals and he voiced America’s support for rights and freedoms in Egypt, including the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Rights and freedoms in Egypt? Like sentencing 3 Al Jazeera journalists to 7 years of prison?

Egypt’s judiciary has dealt a shocking blow to the principle of free speech after three journalists for Al-Jazeera English were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail on charges of aiding terrorists and endangering national security.

The former BBC correspondent Peter Greste, from Australia, the ex-CNN journalist Mohamed Fahmy, and local producer Baher Mohamed were jailed for seven, seven and 10 years respectively. Four students and activists indicted in the case were sentenced to seven years.

The judge also handed 10-year sentences to the British journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane and the Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, who were not in Egypt but were tried in absentia.

The courtroom packed with journalists, diplomats and relatives erupted at the verdict which came despite what independent observers said was a complete lack of evidence.

While Egypt was busy jailing journalists, another great pal of America, Israel, decided to bomb Syria while Americans watched the World Cup:

The Israeli military has carried out airstrikes on a number of military targets inside Syria in response to a cross-border attack that left an Israeli teenager dead, authorities have said.

In a statement early on Monday, the military said nine targets were struck and “direct hits were confirmed.”

A monitoring group said that the strikes on Syrian military positions killed at least ten members of Syria’s army.

“At least 10 members of the Syrian army were killed,” said Rami Abdurrahman from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group that collects information from activists in Syria.

The region is a tinderbox where any little spark could start a wider conflagration that could quickly get out of control. A good case can probably be made that the situation is already out of control.

America has no credibility left with its incoherent, dangerously destructive foreign policy. This sentiment was summed up succinctly by the Polish Foreign Minister, who referred to Poland’s alliance with America as “worthless”:

According to a transcript of excerpts of the conversation that was published by Wprost on its Internet site, Sikorski told Rostowski: “You know that the Polish-US alliance isn’t worth anything.”

“It is downright harmful, because it creates a false sense of security … Complete bullshit. We’ll get in conflict with the Germans, Russians and we’ll think that everything is super, because we gave the Americans a blow job. Losers. Complete losers.”

We will be lucky if we get through this summer without WWIII starting.

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