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.

by lizard

The whoring DiFi analogy and gaydar comments Brian Schweitzer made recently forced two Montana Democrat political blogs to half-heartedly condemn The Brian’s antics, which made for some entertaining reading.

At Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba kept it short and tried feebly to minimize the impact of Brian’s indiscretion by saying essentially those meanie Republicans have said worse:

Former Governor Brian Schweitzer apologized for his insensitive sexist and homophobic remarks about Dianne Feinstein and Eric Cantor, suggesting, at least, that the former Governor knows he was wrong. There is no defending what Schweitzer had to say, but the spectacle of Montana and national conservatives falling all over themselves to condemn Schweitzer when they’ve not only said worse, but enacted legislation that put bigotry into practice, certainly makes it difficult not to be a cynic about politics. It’s also especially cynical for former Baucus staff member Jim Messina, who was responsible for the profoundly homophobic Mike Taylor ad to be quoted calling Schweitzer the “most overrated pol (in) memory,” and [saying] that “offensive comments and bolo ties don’t get you (the president of the United States).”

I know it’s difficult for Democrat loyalists to criticize one of their own, especially when our former Governor was their best chance at holding the Senate seat vacated by perennial corporate whore and destroyer of single payer health care, Max Baucus. But the fact Brian crammed both feet into his mouth by being “insensitive” to both women and the LGBT community made some sort of response necessary.

Over at the MT Cowgirl blog that necessary response is even more hilarious. Claiming to be a “feminist” blog, the “Cowgirl” had to address their former boss political champion who once delighted with antics like veto-branding on the steps of the capitol. Here is how the post begins:

Two days ago, it was revealed that Brian Schweitzer said his “gaydar” detected something in Eric Cantor and that it might have been the reason conservatives voted against him; that southern men are often “effeminate sounding;” and, that Dianne Feinstein’s willingness to give the NSA a blank check, coupled with her later criticism of the NSA, is the equivalent of a hooker saying she’s a nun.

Not Schweitzer’s finest moment and comments that must here, on a feminist blog, be condemned. The remarks about Cantor and southerners are not appropriate; the Feinstein remark is not exactly a wise or feminist thing to say about a female politician.

Can you hear the reluctance? I certainly can. But to maintain the Cowgirl brand, this post had to be written. But don’t worry, Brian lovers, the Cowgirl won’t take “her” kid gloves off:

I do suppose calling a politician a whore is a unisex thing too: you do hear the phrase uttered all the time equally about male politicians who sell themselves to the highest bidder. Nevertheless, had a GOP member said these things I’d have enjoyed slamming him, so here must we too must too denounce the democrat for the utterance. That said, those who know Schweitzer know that his record bears no resemblance to these remarks, something that has not been remarked upon in all the coverage. He has always been a social progressive and especially so on women’s issues. So the incident has a strange asymmetry to it.

They have often said that Schweitzer’s strengths are his weaknesses, and lately he is certainly the victim of what has often been a great strength: always trying to serve up a new, different, provocative and fresh dish to the voter and the consumer of politics. But the customer, this week, got a bad piece of fish which is being returned to the kitchen. The chef has apologized. He went on Facebook yesterday to do so, and I suspect we’ll see him reiterate early and often, as media personalities must do these days.

This part of the post offers an interesting feminist perspective on the use of the term “whore” in politics. It’s a unisex thing, says the Cowgirl, which I helpfully preempted by accurately referring to Baucus as such. Then the Cowgirl dishes up a culinary analogy drenched in weak sauce.

To sum up the post, the Cowgirl explains why so many people, including some Democrats, are enjoying watching Schweitzer crash and burn:

Schweitzer has also taken his lumps inside Montana, with state legislators and political activists of both parties expressing their disappointment on Facebook and Twitter. The piling on is not surprising at all. Schweitzer played a zero-sum game as governor in which you either had to join him or beat him, and if you lost he liked to squish you like a mosquito on the wall. It was what made the administration successful and also good political theater, but it also earned him many enemies. I can’t wait to hear what they say about it all at the Montana GOP convention this weekend.

So conservatives, but also the various democrats in the orbits of Jon Tester and Max Baucus who never warmed to Schweitzer and were never happy about the amount of water he displaced from the pool, are today enjoying some Big Sky Schadenfreude*. Now we will see if Schweitzer can recover and return to form.

It’s funny to watch this “feminist” blog try to depict Brian’s comments as having a “strange asymmetry” that somehow deviates from his usual form. My hunch is Schweitzer enjoyed some of that whiskey he likes talking about, which led him to express sentiments he has the good sense (when sober) not to articulate.

Regardless of the fallout, Schweitzer has too big of an ego to just ride off quietly into the sunset, especially when there are political whoring opportunities to take advantage of.

by lizard

I had a brief exchange with larry kurtz on Twitter about Hillary Clinton running for president. When I expressed that pro-Hillary Dems confound me, he gave me a little nugget of Democrat wisdom: it’s about who can win, liz: thought you knew that.

When winning is everything, the end justifies the means. Hillary Clinton probably understands that better than most, considering she chose to advance her legal career by putting a 12 year old rape victim through hell more than 30 years ago in order to get her child rapist client a lenient sentence. This piece from The Daily Beast features the now 52 year old woman talking about her experience after audio tapes of Hillary Clinton talking about the case emerged, exposing that Clinton knew her client was guilty. The means Clinton used to get her client a light sentence also included deceitful victim blaming:

The victim’s allegation that Clinton smeared her following her rape is based on a May 1975 court affidavit written by Clinton on behalf of Thomas Alfred Taylor, one of the two alleged attackers, whom Clinton agreed to defend after being asked by the prosecutor. Taylor had specifically requested a female attorney.

“I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing,” Clinton, then named Hillary D. Rodham, wrote in the affidavit. “I have also been informed that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body. Also that she exhibits an unusual stubbornness and temper when she does not get her way.”

Clinton also wrote that a child psychologist told her that children in early adolescence “tend to exaggerate or romanticize sexual experiences,” especially when they come from “disorganized families, such as the complainant.”

The victim vigorously denied Clinton’s accusations and said there has never been any explanation of what Clinton was referring to in that affidavit. She claims she never accused anyone of attacking her before her rape.

“I’ve never said that about anyone. I don’t know why she said that. I have never made false allegations. I know she was lying,” she said. “I definitely didn’t see older men. I don’t know why Hillary put that in there and it makes me plumb mad.”

When an old, white male Montana judge engages in victim blaming people are rightfully outraged. How will Democrats process this news that their best shot at electoral victory in 2016 utilized victim blaming as a tactic to defend a child rapist?

And it gets worse. The audio tapes:

The victim’s second main grievance with Clinton stems from the newly revealed audio recordings, which were taped in a series of interviews of Clinton with Arkansas reporter Roy Reed, who was researching an article on the Clintons that was ultimately never published. The Free Beacon found the tapes archived at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, amidst thousands of pieces of Clinton history that are being periodically released for public consumption.

On the tapes, Clinton, who speaks in a Southern drawl, appears to acknowledge that she was aware of her client’s guilt, brags about successfully getting the only piece of physical evidence thrown out of court, and laughs about it all whimsically.

“He took a lie detector test. I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs,” Clinton says on the recording, failing to hold back some chuckles.

Pretty funny, like Gaddafi being executed by Libyan rebels.

I have long thought the Clintons are sociopaths willing to do anything to achieve power, wealth and fame. Bill Clinton sold the soul of the Democrat Party to satiate his appetites. It remains to be seen what horrific means Hillary Clinton will deploy to become America’s first female president.

I guess for a lot of people having a president with the letter “D” next to their name and a vagina below the belt is more important than addressing the destructive trends of our plutocracy’s crony capitalist system.

Good News/Bad News

by lizard

Brian Schweitzer turned his mouth into a gun then promptly shot himself in the foot, inspiring the Washington Post to title their article thusly: The Brian Schweitzer Presidential Speculation was Fun While it Lasted. Here are two examples from Brian’s unfiltered responses to a National Journal reporter:

Schweitzer is incredulous that Feinstein—considered by her critics to be too close to the intelligence community—was now criticizing the (National Security Agency). “She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees, and now she says, ‘I’m a nun,’ when it comes to this spying!” he says. Then, he adds, quickly, “I mean, maybe that’s the wrong metaphor—but she was all in!”

And this:

Last week, I called him on the night Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in his GOP primary. “Don’t hold this against me, but I’m going to blurt it out. How do I say this … men in the South, they are a little effeminate,” he offered when I mentioned the stunning news. When I asked him what he meant, he added, “They just have effeminate mannerisms. If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say—and I’m fine with gay people, that’s all right—but my gaydar is 60-70 percent. But he’s not, I think, so I don’t know. Again, I couldn’t care less. I’m accepting.”

I for one am happy to have the filter-free musings of The Brian torpedo his ego-maniacal posturing for the presidency. Enjoy the whiskey and steaks, Brian, because your political ambitions just quickly evaporated, regardless of a Facebook apology.

That’s the good news. Now the bad news.

The Healthy Montana Initiative announced they won’t have the signatures to get I-170 on the ballot. Cowgirl has some good analysis of the stalling tactics deployed by AG Tim Fox. Without the signatures the likelihood of Bullock calling a special session have greatly decreased.

I don’t know how to express how damaging this is. Hospitals and mental health providers are being bled to death from this cruel denial of OUR OWN GODDAMN TAX DOLLARS WE FUCKING PAY INTO THE FEDERAL SYSTEM!

Hospitals lay off staff, people with mental illness can’t get services and those in need bottleneck at the ER and county jail.

The people who have made this disastrous decision that impact tens of thousands of their constituents HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE the consequences of their idiotic ideological cruelty. They think they are somehow addressing the Federal deficit. They are dangerously stupid. I wish we lowly citizens could take their tax-funded state benefits from them so they can enjoy the market options our broken health care system provide.

The fight will go on because the fight is overt class warfare waged by privileged ideologues against the poor.  Who knows, maybe one of these days those under attack will start fighting back.

By JC

I haven’t had time to do any writeups, lately, and I’m out of town for a bit. So on lizard’s behest, I’ll post up a few bits and pieces I’ve come across in the last few days.

First off, Lehmann’s “ISIS Unveiled: The Identity of The Insurgency in Syria and Iraq:”

ISIS Unveiled – A Two-Headed Monster. We have unveiled ISIS, and ISIS Unveiled turned out to be a two-headed monster. Its body consists of volunteers, mercenaries and Saudi, Turkish and U.S. intelligence operatives and special forces. Its two heads are the royal family of Saudi Arabia and the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, U.S.A.

Any appraisal of any foreign, political or military intervention in Iraq without considering these facts would lead to the wrong conclusion. It is precisely therefore, that one will not find any of this information in other than fragmented form in any of the western or Gulf-Arab media.

and Cartalucci’s “US in Iraq: Geopolitical Arsonists Seek to Burn Region:”

Despite an open conspiracy to drown the region in sectarian strife, the US now poses as a stakeholder in Iraq’s stability. Having armed, funded, and assisted ISIS into existence and into northern Iraq itself, the idea of America “intervening” to stop ISIS is comparable to an arsonist extinguishing his fire with more gasoline. Reviled across the region, any government – be it in Baghdad, Tehran, or Damascus – that allies itself with the US will be immediately tainted in the minds of forces forming along both sides of this artificially created but growing sectarian divide…

While the US downplays the sectarian aspects of ISIS’ invasion of Iraq before global audiences, its propaganda machine across the Middle East, assisted by Doha and Riyadh, is stoking sectarian tensions. The ISIS has committed itself to a campaign of over-the-top sectarian vitriol and atrocities solely designed to trigger a wider Sunni-Shia’a conflict.

then Chossudovsky’s “The Engineered Destruction and Political Fragmentation of Iraq: Toward Creation of a US–sponsored Islamist Caliphate:”

Known and documented, Al Qaeda affiliated entities have been used by US-NATO in numerous conflicts as “intelligence assets” since the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war. In Syria, the Al Nusrah and ISIS rebels are the foot-soldiers of the Western military alliance, which oversees and controls the recruitment and training of paramilitary forces.

The Al Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) re-emerged in April 2013 with a different name and acronym, commonly referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The formation of a terrorist entity encompassing both Iraq and Syria was part of a US intelligence agenda. It responded to geopolitical objectives. It also coincided with the advances of Syrian government forces against the US sponsored insurgency in Syria and the failures of both the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and its various “opposition” terror brigades.

The decision was taken by Washington to channel its support (covertly) in favor of a terrorist entity which operates in both Syria and Iraq and which has logistical bases in both countries. The ISIS Sunni caliphate project coincides with a longstanding US agenda to carve up both Iraq and Syria into three separate territories: A Sunni Islamist Caliphate, an Arab Shia Republic, and a Republic of Kurdistan.

Whereas the (US proxy) government in Baghdad purchases advanced weapons systems from the US including F16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham –which is fighting Iraqi government forces– is supported covertly by Western intelligence. The objective is to engineer a civil war in Iraq, in which both sides are controlled indirectly by US-NATO.

The scenario is to arm and equip them, on both sides, finance them with advanced weapons systems and then “let them fight”.

and next (including an awesome history of references on Iraq–look at the references at the end of article) Julie Lévesque: “US-Sponsored Terrorism in Iraq and “Constructive Chaos” in the Middle East:”

The preferred narrative in the U.S. and most Western mainstream media is that the current situation is due to the U.S “withdrawal” which ended in December 2011 (more than 200 U.S. troops and military advisors remained in Iraq). This portrait of events in which the US withdrawal is to blame for the insurgency does not draw any connection between the U.S. invasion of 2003 and the occupation that ensued. It also ignores the death squads trained by U.S advisors in Iraq in the wake of the invasion and which are at the heart of the current turmoil.

As usual, the mainstream media does not want you to understand what’s going on. Its goal is to shape perceptions and opinions by crafting a view of the world which serves powerful interests. For that matter, they will tell you it’s a civil war.

What is unfolding is a process of “constructive chaos”, engineered by the West. The destabilization of Iraq and its fragmentation has been planned long ago and is part of the ”Anglo-American-Israeli ‘military road map’ in the Middle East”…

Some will argue that US foreign policy in the Middle East is a “failure”, that policymakers are “stupid”. It’s not a failure and they’re not stupid. That’s what they want you to think because they think you’re stupid.

What is happening now was planned long ago. The truth is that US foreign policy in the Middle East is diabolical, brutally repressive, criminal and undemocratic.

and last, but not least Al-Akhbar’s As’ad AbuKhalil: “The US and the Iraq question: Let the blame fall on one man, provided he is not an American:”

The US complains these days about the sectarianism and corruption of the Maliki regime when the sectarianism and corruption of the Iraqi political system was designed by the American occupation government in Baghdad. It divided the Iraqi people into the various ethnic and sectarian groups in order to facilitate their subjugation and occupation, and to prevent the formation of Iraqi national resistance to American occupation. This was the plan all along from the minute the US set up the lackey governing body, and distributed the seats according to the narrow sectarianism of the Lebanese political system.

The US created conditions in which the rise of sectarian movements became inevitable. And US close allies in the Gulf region were the sponsors, funders, and military suppliers of the various Jihadi groups. The US was satisfied when GCC regimes explained that the funds to Jihadi groups came from “private citizens” as if the notion of “private citizens” is allowed in such authoritarian regimes.

The US must be stunned with the developments in Iraq. The US government did not think that its policies of supporting, funding, and arming “moderate Syrian rebels” – whatever that means – would unleash the second wave of Jihadi proliferation (or third period of the mujahidin in Afghanistan). The US deceived itself and its public by insisting that there are categories of Syrian rebels and that some of them are quite “moderate” and “secular” and that some of them are actually led by Syrian feminists (Suheir al-Atassi’s name is always invoked perhaps because liberals in Congress like to think that their “rebels” are actually feminists). The entire narrative was bogus and had no roots in reality. The Free Syrian Army has now been exposed as nothing but a fictitious name intended for fundraising purposes.

…will have to do. Obfuscation of the true story is the U.S. government’s weapon of choice right now. Talk among yourselves. I’m checking out for three days.

by lizard

Paul Wolfowitz and other sniveling Neocons are making the rounds on corporate media as events in Iraq escalate. If there was such a thing as an audacity meter, these fuckers would probably break ‘em with statements like Wolfowitz made to Chuck Todd. You know, Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of Iraq’s destruction who went on to scandalize his tenure at the World Bank. Thanks to MSNBC this insightful piece of shit got an opportunity to spout incendiary non-sense, stating explicitly that intervening militarily in Iraq is about “preventing another 9/11“. What the fucking fuck?

Who ultimately benefits from this ISIS offensive eliciting delusional rants from un-prosecuted Neocons like Wolfowitz is difficult to discern. I’m hoping to see a post from JC soon because I know he’s been digging into it. One of my favorite Counterpunch contributors, Michael Whitney, smells something fishy in the way this has been reported:

There’s something that doesn’t ring-true about the coverage of crisis in Iraq. Maybe it’s the way the media reiterates the same, tedious storyline over and over again with only the slightest changes in the narrative. For example, I was reading an article in the Financial Times by Council on Foreign Relations president, Richard Haass, where he says that Maliki’s military forces in Mosul “melted away”. Interestingly, the Haass op-ed was followed by a piece by David Gardener who used almost the very same language. He said the “army melts away.” So, I decided to thumb through the news a bit and see how many other journalists were stung by the “melted away” bug. And, as it happens, there were quite a few, including Politico, NBC News, News Sentinel, Global Post, the National Interest, ABC News etc. Now, the only way an unusual expression like that would pop up with such frequency would be if the authors were getting their talking points from a central authority. (which they probably do.) But the effect, of course, is the exact opposite than what the authors intend, that is, these cookie cutter stories leave readers scratching their heads and feeling like something fishy is going on.

Whitney goes on to suggest there is an alignment between the objectives of ISIS and the foreign policy objectives of the Obama regime:

What’s important as far as Obama is concerned, is that the strategic objectives of Isis and those of the United States coincide. Both entities seek greater political representation for Sunnis, both want to minimize Iranian influence in Iraq, and both support a soft partition plan that former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie H. Gelb, called “The only viable strategy to correct (Iraq ‘s) historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.” This is why Obama hasn’t attacked the militia even though it has marched to within 50 miles of Baghdad. It’s because the US benefits from these developments.

Destroying Iraq has cost thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives (though we don’t do body counts) and over a trillion dollars of taxpayer money. Despite those incredible costs, the jihadists getting US support against Assad in Syria have expanded their reign of terror into Iraq, creating this obscene opportunity for Neocon cheerleaders to go on a cable news blitzkrieg.

Speaking of Neocons, b at Moon of Alabama highlights an awkward endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Robert Kagan that recently appeared in the New York Times. Here is the relevant quote:

But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.

“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

For those keeping score, Kagan’s wife is Victoria Nuland, the subject of the infamously leaked phone call exposing US meddling in Ukraine.

What should we call Democrats who align their foreign policy with Neoconservatives? Maybe The Polish Wolf has a good idea, though his writing on these important topics of America’s role in the world have been curiously silent recently.

Regardless, it should be well established that corporate Democrats like Hillary Clinton have more in common with Neoconservatives than she does with the voters being conditioned to accept her coronation in 2016.

by lizard

The short-sighted pandering required of Montana Democrats to extractive industry is understandable. It’s the pragmatic thing to do if you want a chance at winning a trip to the big trough in DC where the piggies feed. I do marvel, though, how one who claims to not support the Keystone pipeline describes why he supports Lewis’ support of that same pipeline. Sorry if that’s confusing. Maybe this will clear things up:

Yesterday, Democrat John Lewis released a detailed energy plan to “make Montana an energy leader” and Ryan Zinke issued a childish response that was as factually-challenged as it was simplistic.

To start with, both men support the Keystone XL pipeline. A key difference is that Lewis would legislatively mandate protections for landowners and that highly-skilled American workers would use high-quality materials to build the pipeline.

Now, as I said before, I don’t support the Keystone XL pipeline and have concerns about relying on coal to power the nation and Montana’s future economy. Those caveats aside, Lewis’s proposal recognizes political reality in the United States: the most viable energy policy in the short-term is to use fossil fuel resources to fund the transition to cleaner energy. It might feel good to demand an immediate shift and ignore the need to transition our economy, but Lewis is offering a pragmatic solution that suggests some real thought.

How exactly will fossil fuel resources fund the transition to cleaner energy? Will Congress end subsidies and raise taxes to fund research? Or are we just suppose to hope those nice oil companies will see the error of squeezing every last drop from the ground and willingly ween themselves off the habit we’re all locked into?

Here is the reality of what Lewis is ultimately supporting: a pipeline that will require the taking of private property through eminent domain to benefit a foreign company that will ship and refine some of the dirtiest fuel on earth. It will create less than 40 permanent jobs, according to the state department, and will more than likely end up in foreign markets, therefore NOT lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

Here is another political reality for Lewis and the rest of the Democrats in this state: 57,000 more voters turned out to vote in the GOP primary.

I believe there is a rich vein of bipartisan disgust that could be mined (using an extractive industry analogy) to fuel a populist charge against the establishment, but instead we have Democrats who are too afraid to even say climate change. No wonder Democrat voters are apathetic.

It sure would be nice to have a Democrat capable of articulating that the talking points for the Keystone pipeline are bullshit, but we won’t get that from a Baucus acolyte showing his chops at political expediency. Too bad the political reality doesn’t intrude on the actual reality, like the hoax of energy independence:

In a true supply and demand economy, higher prices would indicate demand is greater than supply, and the price of gasoline would drop if supply increased. This is one reason people are pushing for the construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. They also believe it will help America become energy independent.

The facts, however, indicate that energy independence has relatively little to do with America producing more gas. In fact, some Americans are paying more for gas from American oil fields while other Americans are paying less for gas from foreign oil fields.

According to GasBuddy, which keeps track of gasoline prices and predictions throughout the United States, refineries in the Rockies and upper Midwest are producing less expensive gas because they are paying $85 a barrel for Canadian crude oil. Refineries on the West Coast, however, are producing more expensive gas because they are paying $110 per barrel of crude oil. The quality of crude oil and the difficulty of obtaining and transferring it play a role in the price differences, but the bottom line in this case is that oil taken from American soil is costing more than oil taken from Canadian soil. (This apparently is not the case with the Keystone Pipeline. That oil will be produced in Canada by a Canadian company, cross the U.S. in the pipeline to Texas and then be shipped to other countries. Very little, if any, of that oil will remain in the United States and have little impact on our energy prices.)

The myth is that if we obtain more oil here, we can become energy independent and the prices will go down. If that were the case, then gas prices should be cheaper all across the U.S. this year because we are producing more oil and gas. Even though supply has increased the price is higher because we send most of our gas outside the country. According to GasBuddy, “the U.S. has turned into a net exporter, regularly sending more gasoline offshore than it brings in from foreign destinations.”

Anyway, just forget all that reality stuff and do the pragmatic thing, which is vote for John Lewis in November.

My Lego Father’s Day

by lizard

My definition of Fatherhood: a process of forgiving your father’s mistakes while actively making your own.

Growing up I’d describe my main paternal complaint as a quintessentially middle class one. After marrying and starting a family young, like they did back in those olden days, my dad threw himself into the race of provider. What that meant was lots of traveling, lots of not being around. But our houses got nicer and by high school I was the perfect cliche of suburban rebellion.

Rebelling against the comfort my dad made big sacrifices to provide me didn’t stop me from enjoying the material fruits of his labor, like Legos for birthdays and Christmas. I spent long hours pawing through my Lego pile, free-style building from deconstructed Lego sets.

Last summer I passed the Lego torch to my boys. That’s not altogether accurate. Last summer I set a brush fire in which I am still delightfully consumed, but there were some bumps along the way.

After my mom reunited me with what remained of my Lego pile, I spent long nights in my garage after we put down the kids, building. I built one particular space ship that I actually restricted my kids from playing with because the engines kept falling off. Frustrated, I finally used glue.

I also built an elaborate space station and a multitude of vehicles and luckily realized I was domineering my kids’ Lego experience before watching The Lego Movie, where my exact behavior was mirrored in parody by the always brilliant Will Ferrell as President Business. And though I’m mostly reformed, I admit I still have to catch myself when I see my youngest mixing up the parts of the mini-figures.

If you haven’t watched The Lego Movie you should. The message I got from the movie is this: don’t stifle young creativity by being an overbearing control freak incapable of thinking beyond the limits of the instructions.

Of course that’s just my interpretation. At Fox News they see things a little differently:

To be fair, I do think what we expose our kids to has profound impacts on their development. For me, one of those exposures was The Never Ending Story, described in this post as a movie with a particularly traumatizing scene where a horse dies because he’s too sad. Thank goodness the Baby Boomer generation developed pharmaceutical drugs to deal with the resulting generational depression.

Simply being present as a parent isn’t easy, especially with today’s ubiquitous devices and the variety of distractions they offer. If I don’t police myself then I run the risk of repeating the absences that upset me as a kid growing up with a dad who seemed to travel more than he was home.

My dad is a great dad and he did what he had to do to provide for his family. I hope as my kids get older they will be able to say the same about me.

by lizard

I doubt there will be a political reset after Eric Cantor’s embarrassing primary loss. All of us busy with dissection are just expounding on whatever particular body part fits our particular narrative. That said…

Who doesn’t appreciate the financial David vs. Goliath aspect of this upset? We are told over and over by party apologists that money=viability, affirming while lamenting the total capture by insane capital of our political process.

Insane capital? Yes. This from Boiling Frog Post:

The world’s super-rich are terrified that the system that they have constructed, which almost exclusively benefits them, is so lacking in trust and legitimacy in the eyes of the world’s population that it could collapse beneath their feet. With this as the context, Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild hosted – on May 27 – the ‘Conference on Inclusive Capitalism’ in London, closed to the press and public, attended by 250 delegates who collectively hold $30 trillion – or one-third – of the world’s investable wealth. With speakers that included Prince Charles, Bill Clinton, Christine Lagarde and Mark Carney, among others, the conference was concerned with rebuilding trust and legitimacy in the state-capitalists system by promoting ‘cosmetic’ changes. This conference was the first in what will likely be a series of conferences to be hosted in the future, as the conditions which destroyed trust will only worsen.

There is no trust. There is no legitimacy. The list of grievances is long, very long.

Notice, of course, the presence of Bill Clinton, the perennial, ruddy-faced wholesaler of Democrat values to the global plutocrats. Oh, and anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton would be any different is deluded.

The meager reaction to the global economic crisis we haven’t recovered from—Dodd-Frank—is being slowly undermined, as reported by Moyers & Company:

In Washington, DC a bi-partisan effort is underway to chip away at the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which is supposed to prevent the type of economic meltdown that brought the world to the brink in 2008.

Wall Street banks are lobbying to de-fang sections of the law related to derivatives — the complex financial contracts at the core of the meltdown. One deregulation bill, the “London Whale Loophole Act,” would allow American banks to skip Dodd-Frank’s trading rules on derivatives if they are traded in countries that have similar regulatory structures.

“It keeps being weakened and weakened,” economist Anat Admati, co-author of the book, The Bankers’ New Clothes, says of the Dodd-Frank legislation. “We have some tweaks. We have messy, unfocused efforts. But we haven’t really gotten to the heart of the matter and really managed to control this system effectively,” she tells Bill.

Banks are indulging in the same behaviors, such as having too much debt, that got us into serious trouble in 2008. According to Admati, “…the financial system continues to be fragile and the banks continue to live dangerously. And when you speed at 100 miles an hour, you might explode and harm other people.”

Insane capital, running the same insane con that blew up five years ago. Anyone see a problem with this?

While the banks continue their con-job unabated, Hillary Clinton is trying to co-opt Elizabeth Warren’s populism. If it works then Democrats have only themselves to blame. Here’s Mother Jones describing Hillary Clinton’s Goldman Sachs problem:

A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton delivered a much-touted policy speech at the New America Foundation in Washington, where she talked passionately about the financial plight of Americans who “are still barely getting by, barely holding on, not seeing the rewards that they believe their hard work should have merited.” She bemoaned the fact that the slice of the nation’s wealth collected by the top 1 percent—or 0.01 percent—has “risen sharply over the last generation,” and she denounced this “throwback to the Gilded Age of the robber barons.” Her speech, in which she cited the various projects of the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation that address economic inequality, was widely compared to the rhetoric of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the unofficial torchbearer of the populist wing of the Democratic Party. Here was Hillary, test-driving a theme for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, sticking up for the little guy and trash-talking the economic elites. She decried the “shadow banking system that operated without accountability” and caused the financial crisis that wiped out millions of jobs and the nest eggs, retirement funds, and college savings of families across the land. Yet at the end of this week, when all three Clintons hold a daylong confab with donors to their foundation, the site for this gathering will be the Manhattan headquarters of Goldman Sachs.

Goldman was a key participant in that “shadow banking system” that precipitated the housing market collapse and the consequent financial debacle that slammed America’s middle class. (A system that was unleashed in part due to deregulation supported by the Clinton administration in the 1990s.) This investment house might even be considered one of the robber barons of Wall Street. In its 2011 report, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a congressionally created panel set up to investigate the economic meltdown, approvingly cited a financial expert who concluded that Goldman practices had “multiplied the effects of the collapse in [the] subprime” mortgage market that set off the wider financial implosion that nearly threw the nation into a depression.

Hillary Clinton’s shift from declaimer of Big Finance shenanigans to collaborator with Goldman—the firm has donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation—prompts an obvious question: Can the former secretary of state cultivate populist cred while hobnobbing with Goldman and pocketing money from it and other Wall Street firms? Last year, she gave two paid speeches to Goldman Sachs audiences. (Her customary fee is $200,000 a speech.)

I don’t know Democrats, can she cultivate populist cred while hobnobbing with banksters? Does the desire to have a president with a vagina trump the substance of what this woman represents?

And then there’s the foreign policy disasters, like Iraq and Libya. Iraq is currently collapsing to ISIS jihadists. What’s been happening the past few days is incredibly disturbing:

Insurgents inspired by al-Qaeda rapidly pressed toward Baghdad on Wednesday, confronting little resistance from Iraq’s collapsing security forces and expanding an arc of control that now includes a wide swath of the country.

By nightfall, the militants had reached the flash-point city of Samarra, just 70 miles outside Baghdad, after having first seized Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town, and other cities while pressing southward from Mosul.

The stunning speed with which the rout has unfolded in northern Iraq has raised deep doubts about the capacity of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, and it has also kindled fears about the government’s grip on the capital.

Who cares as long as Big Oil gets their share, right?

With Libya, this Truthout piece is worth reading because it describes the real questions Democrats should be asking about Benghazi but won’t because Hillary:

There is very little coverage of how Libya looks now, years removed from NATO’s attack, or the liberal defenses of it. “Though the NATO intervention against Gaddafi was justified as a humanitarian response to the threat that Gaddafi’s tanks would slaughter dissidents in Benghazi,” wrote Patrick Cockburn in September 2013, “the international community has ignored the escalating violence. The foreign media, which once filled the hotels of Benghazi and Tripoli, have likewise paid little attention to the near collapse of the central government.” Recent reports indicate that the country might be heading towards another civil war; the violence has gotten increasingly more disturbing, a consistent reminder of the Obama administration’s lasting impact on the region.

These are all things that could, hypothetically, be brought up during a hearing on Benghazi. Democrats and progressive media members criticize the hearings vociferously and mock the futility of the Republican talking points, without ever once mentioning what a constructive committee on Libya might look like. Perhaps, rather than ask a multitude of specific questions about what the Obama administration knew and when they knew it, it could ask about NATO’s attack against Libya TV, which killed three people, an obvious violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738, which condemns attacks on journalists during conflicts. Maybe it could ask a question, or two, about the various mass killings that took place after Gaddafi was removed from power. Greg Shupak, who teaches media studies at the University of Guelph in Canada, points out that, “On October 21, 2011, 66 bodies were found at the Mahari Hotel, at least 53 of whom were executed by a rebel militia. An undetermined portion of these were Gaddafi loyalists who had been captured along with Gaddafi himself. Those killed at the hotel were shot with rifles and many had their hands tied behind their backs and some can be seen on video being abused before their execution. NATO plainly shares responsibility for these crimes because before NATO bombing commenced, the insurgents were on the verge of defeat and could not have won the war without NATO air cover, arms, money, and diplomatic support.”

There are also questions that connect directly to the murder of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and US Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith that no one seems to be asking. According to an April 2014 report from Seymour Hersh, the entire diplomatic mission in Benghazi could have simply been a cover so that the CIA could effectively smuggle weapons to the anti-Assad forces of Syria. Why is no one addressing this? Also, why are people simply focusing on the causes of this specific attack, rather than putting the attack in the context of similar attacks in Libya? In the days after the killings, Vijay Prashad observed that, “This is not the first such protest in Benghazi, the eastern city of Libya. Over the course of this year, tumult has been the order of the day. In January, a crowd stormed the headquarters of the National Transitional Council. In April, a bomb was thrown at a convoy that included the head of the UN Mission to Libya, and another bomb exploded at a courthouse. In May, a rocket was fired at the Red Cross office. A convoy carrying the head of the British consulate was attacked in June, and since then the consulate has been abandoned. In August, a pipe bomb exploded in front of the US consulate building. Frustration with the West is commonplace amongst sections of society, who are not Gaddafi loyalists, but on the contrary fought valiantly in the 2011 civil war against Gaddafi.”

The liberal refusal to investigate any of these issues transcends mere Obama deflection and is probably also influenced by the need to nominate Hillary Clinton in 2016. As Ajamu Baraka wrote, in a piece called “Why a Principled Left Should Support a Benghazi Inquiry,” “Democrats already lined-up behind a Clinton campaign understand that no matter what comes out this inquiry, Benghazi has the potential to become a permanent yoke that wears down the Clinton candidacy. But in another bizarre display of political and ideological subordination to the Democrat Party and its rightist elite, elements of the left have also expressed opposition to this inquiry.”

Are there any Democrats out there not captured by insane capital? Are Democrats capable of seeing how disastrous another Clinton in the White House would be?

If Democrats don’t wake up to the Clinton con, and Hillary becomes our next president, we are in serious trouble. With insane capital already calling the shots, we are already in serious trouble. Another Clinton in the White House will further entrench the evil bastards who are destroying this country and setting the world ablaze.

by lizard

We probably won’t hear much about the 74th school shooting since Sandy Hook for two reasons. The first, only two were killed, and one of those was the shooter. The second, Eric Cantor.

It seems, if you watch the pundits salivating over this story, that immigration is the reason for this surprising political upset. Inner City Press has a different take worth considering:

In US politics, the upset of Eric Cantor by Dave Brat on June 10 has pundits like bond rating agency downgrading the chanced of Marco Rubio and pumping up those of Hillary Clinton, whose book (event) Inner City Press reviewed on June 10, here.

But there are other ways to view Brat’s win. On the US’ spying programs, Cantor defended them while Brat said, “the NSA’s indiscriminate collection of data on all Americans is a disturbing violation of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy.” On his website, Brat said he favors “the end of bulk phone and email data collection by the NSA.”

Also on his campaign website, Brat bashed Cantor for supporting “Wall Street bailouts.” A review of Cantor’s largest campaign contributors finds Goldman Sachs, Scoggin Capital Management and the Blackstone Group, now big in rental-backed securities. More on bad banks here.

Brat said, “”All the investment banks up in DC, New York, those guys should’ve gone to jail”

Jailing bankers and stopping the NSA from systematically violating the constitution? Sounds good to me.

Are you listening Democrats?

by lizard

Our city continues to grapple with the effects of alcohol on the segment of the homeless population that frustrates and confounds city officials. Here is Judge Jenks from last week’s public safety committee talking about the “mean drunks” she routinely encounters from the bench:

“These people fight. They fight with each other, they fight with strangers. They’re mean drunks. It’s one of those things that would need to be addressed.”

The impact of alcohol abuse has tragic and expensive consequences for our state that go far beyond the “core problems” downtown, impacts I’ve written about before. One study put the annual cost of alcohol abuse at 642 MILLION dollars. Here is how that number breaks down:

Alcohol induced medical care: 100.7 million
Criminal justice system: 49.1 million
Early mortality/lost earnings; disease/vehicle accidents: 296.8 million
Lost productivity: 53.3 million
Treatment costs: 10.7 million

Alcohol production is also a booming business, which is why there will be another micro-distillery in downtown Missoula and another brewery potentially going in on West Broadway, something City Council will be looking at this evening. The name of this potentially new brewing business is Big Medicine Brewing. Here’s is some content from their website:

The Big Medicine Brewing Co. is a community-orientated and community-based Missoula microbrewery grounded in the world’s great brewing traditions. Through expansive beers, a celebratory atmosphere, and workshops and dialogues that address the critical challenges of our time, the purpose of the brewery is to support people in their own transformation so they are better prepared to authentically connect and transform the world around them.

To encourage more alcohol production, our two Democrat senators, Jon and John, are introducing legislation to cut taxes for alcohol producers:

Beer producers currently pay excise taxes and generally pass the cost on to consumers. The BEER Act would cut the tax in half for all brewers. The Small BREW Act would apply only to smaller brewers, halving the tax on the first 60,000 barrels produced and reducing the tax from $7 to $5 on all barrels after that up to 2 million. All of Montana’s 46 breweries would qualify under the Small BREW Act.

Last week, Walsh joined 45 other senators, including Tester, as a cosponsor of both bills, which were first introduced last year. Walsh also recently announced the formation of a Senate Small Distillers Caucus and expressed his support for the Distillery Excise Tax Reform Act, which would reduce excise rates on spirits from $13.50 to $2.70 for the first 100,000 proof gallons produced.

In a statement, Walsh explained his support for this pro-alcohol legislation, saying that “reducing the overhead costs will allow small business owners to invest in this emerging industry, creating good jobs across Montana.”

Who would criticize legislation like this? Certainly not any of the drunks who make our laws in Helena. Four years ago, Schweitzer made a political point of highlighting the jump in alcohol sales while our legislators are in session:

The Department of Revenue said wholesale sales, which reflect what stores expect to sell to bars and retail customers, increased a whopping 24 percent from January through March in 2009 when the Legislature was last in session.

“The January through March wholesale sales coincide with the primary time period that liquor consumption in Helena is affected by the session,” Department of Revenue spokeswoman Cynthia Piearson wrote in an e-mail.

But lawmakers were not entertained by the way Schweitzer connected the increase to the legislators.

Alcohol is a dangerous drug that ruins people’s lives. Sure, there are those who drink responsibly, but for those that don’t, treatment options are expensive and difficult to access. Instead we spend millions of dollars prosecuting and incarcerating those who have acted recklessly while under the influence.

Maybe instead of increasing the production of alcohol by cutting taxes we should be talking about how to increase access to treatment.

Just a thought.

by lizard

Pigeon spikes are designed to keep bothersome pigeons from comfortably perching on ledges and other surfaces.

Homeless spikes are designed to keep bothersome homeless human beings from sleeping on the ground.

Here’s more from The Guardian:

Metal studs have been installed outside a block of flats in central London to deter rough sleepers.

The installation of the studs outside the flats on Southwark Bridge Road provoked widespread condemnation on Twitter with users claiming homeless people were being treated like vermin because similar metal spikes are used to deter pigeons.

Residents told the Telegraph that the studs were installed outside the flats in the last month to prevent homeless people from sleeping in the doorway.

I remember thinking about this issue last year, when I started noticing chain-link fencing going up under Missoula bridges. I’m assuming the intent is similar to the homeless spikes.

I also remember reading an article about homelessness and transportation infrastructure:

In January of 2010, 109 homeless people were known to be living in the Baldock Rest Area just off Interstate 5 on the southern edge of metropolitan Portland. They were lured – but for entirely differently reasons – by the same amenities that make the wayside a popular one for passing tourists: its hot and cold running water, its ample parking, the private shade of its Douglas Fir trees.

The homeless community, made up of self-described “Baldockeans,” was in many ways self-regulating and stable. One man who’d lived there 17 years considered himself the “mayor” of Baldock. Other members regularly coordinated community meals or car trips to a nearby truck stop. At times when children were living in the encampment, a school bus actually stopped there to pick them up. And when disputes arose over the prime panhandling spot near the restrooms, the community worked out an equitable schedule to share it.

But for all of the compelling details of how this ad hoc community had created its own social structure, what stands out most about this story is its setting. For a variety of reasons, the homeless often wind up living amid transportation infrastructure: rest areas, roadside rights-of-way, the underside of highway bridges, train stations or even moving train cars or buses.

It’s sad watching efforts to reduce places where homeless people can exist. Maybe it would be different if there was adequate resources being deployed to get people off the streets. But there’s not.

Instead, homeless spikes. Good job society.

by lizard

Data continues to confirm the worsening climate disaster. One stark example is the fact arctic sea ice is in steep decline:

Do not expect to see this story on the nightly news. This news story comes by way of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) obtained whilst comparing images of sea ice concentration on May 14, 2014 to June 2, 2014.

Confirmation of the NRL images comes from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC – Boulder) reporting that ice concentration values plummeted by more than 286,000 square kilometers, an area the size of the state of Nevada (286,351 sq km), which alarmingly disappeared over a period of a day, not weeks or months, leaving glaciologists flat-footed and startled.

One can only hope and pray this is not an omen for the entire melt season. At that rate, there’s not enough ice to hold on for very long.

Faced with this worsening climate disaster, what are our state’s politicians going to do? According to this Missoulian article, it appears our state Democrats have taken an incredibly cowardly approach and actually voted to NOT include climate change in their official party platform:

While the Obama administration is churning out rules to limit greenhouse gases that cause climate change, Montana Democrats on Friday resisted placing the words “climate change” in their party platform.

“We can sit here and talk about what we believe here as Democrats,” said Sen. Jim Keane, D-Butte, who argued against mentioning the costs of climate change in the platform. “I believe in the (coal) workers who work in eastern Montana, too.

“There used to be a ton of Democrats in eastern Montana and on the Hi-Line. There’s none left. When you put something like this in the (platform) … words do make a difference.”

A party platform committee considered the change, which would have said the party believes in protecting the environment rather than burdening future generations with the “extraordinary costs of climate-change-caused” effects, but voted against adding the climate change language.

Pathetic.

by lizard

A friend of mine sent me a link a few days ago to an NPR piece she heard which made her think of me, and when you hear the title of the story you’ll know why: More American Than You Might Think Believe in Conspiracy Theories. Apparently there is new research showing around half of all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory. Here’s a portion from the transcript of the interview:

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR’s social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, drops by with juicy new research. He’s here with us again. Shankar, what’s on your mind?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: I want to talk about conspiracy theories today, David. And this is everything from whether the U.S. government was secretly behind the 9/11 attacks to whether President Obama was actually born in the United States. What proportion of the U.S population would you say subscribes to one of these theories?

GREENE: Ten, 15 percent, maybe? I don’t know.

VEDANTAM: Yeah, I would’ve guessed at most 20 percent. And that’s why this new research by Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood at the University of Chicago took me aback. They find that 50 percent of the country subscribes to at least one of these conspiracy theories. So 19 percent of Americans believe the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks. 25 percent believe the recent financial crisis was caused by the small cabal of Wall Street bankers. 11 percent of people believe the government is mandating a switch to compact florescent light bulbs because the light bulbs make people obedient and easy to control.

GREENE: Oh, wow. Shankar, I wonder if it’s worth reminding people exactly what a conspiracy theory is.

VEDANTAM: Here’s how I think about it. A conspiracy theory is where you believe in a theory where no matter how much disconfirming evidence comes in, you somehow convert that disconfirming evidence into part of the conspiracy. So with Barack Obama’s birth certificate, for example, the moment the birth certificate came out from Hawaii, the people who believe that Barack Obama was not born in the United States would say the Hawaiian hospital now is in on the conspiracy as well.

That is an incredibly condescending, inaccurate description of what a conspiracy theory is, and intended to reinforce the pejorative aspect of the term. If you just refer to wikipedia, you get a more neutral description of what a conspiracy theory is:

A conspiracy theory is an explanatory proposition that accuses two or more persons, a group, or an organization of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an illegal or harmful event or situation.

Yes, much better.

Since I like to periodically destroy any credibility I may have accumulated with my writing about non-conspiratorial topics, let’s take a quick look at the “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy theory.

There is an article at Global Research (grain of salt) titled The Propaganda Preparation of 9/11: Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden are Elaborate Legends.

It’s an interesting article that examines how a few people helped construct the pre-9/11 persona of Osama Bin Laden. It’s worth reading in full. If you don’t have the time, I’ll highlight this part:

Here is how it would work: A relatively few well-connected correspondents provide the “scoops” that get the coverage in the relatively few mainstream news sources – the four TV networks, TIME, Newsweek, CNN – where the parameters of debate are set and the “official reality” is consecrated for the bottom feeders in the news chain. In other countries, this is what is known as propaganda – or, put less politely, psychological warfare.

But before I leave this topic, I would like to provide an example of “news management” that is revealing for what is omitted – that is, the “smoking gun” of Pakistani ISI involvement in the events of 9/11. On October 9, 2001, the Times of India dropped this little bombshell: “Top sources confirmed here on Tuesday that [ISI Chief Mahmud Ahmad] lost his job because of the “evidence” India produced to show his links to one of the suicide bombers that wrecked the World Trade Centre. The US authorities sought his removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed Atta from Pakistan by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the instance of Gen. Mahmud.”

What makes this particular piece so devastating is that only days before, much of the mainstream American media was touting the news of a “key link” in the chain of evidence linking bin Laden to the events of September 11 – namely, a $100,000 wire transfer to the hijackers from a shadowy operative linked to bin Laden. Yet once this operative was “outed” as being linked instead to the Pakistani ISI Chief, any propaganda gains initially made through this evidence would now crumble. One possible reason might stem from this Karachi News item, released only two days before September 11:

“[Pakistani] ISI Chief Lt-Gen Mahmood’s week-long presence in Washington has triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council. Officially, State Department sources say he is on a routine visit in return to [sic] CIA Director George Tenet’s earlier visit to Islamabad…What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time Ziauddin Butt, Mahmood’s predecessor, was here during Nawaz Sharif’s government the domestic politics turned topsy-turvy within days. That this is not the first visit by Mahmood in the last three months shows the urgency of the ongoing parleys…”

In other words, this was a propaganda piece that went disastrously wrong. After October 9, bin Laden’s alleged paymaster could now be linked to a U.S. “ally” who spent the days before 9/11 in deep consultation at the Pentagon. The US authorities immediately went into damage control mode by insisting on the quiet retirement of the “outed” ISI chief. Thus removed from the public eye, the ISI Chief’s role in all this could be effectively ignored, and an American media black-out could be safely assumed.

If you look at that first “definition” of a conspiracy, you can apply it to those who cling to the belief that 19 hijackers used 2 planes to destroy 3 buildings on the 11th day of September. Somehow those folks believe in a theory no matter how much disconfirming evidence comes in, and they ridicule anyone who calls into question their belief with other now pejorative terms, like “truthers”.

It shouldn’t be surprising over half of America believes in at least one conspiracy theory. Suspicion and mistrust over the obvious corruption of how power in America is distributed and exercised will only deepen and spread further.

by lizard

Last July, after Americans started learning that our government systemically violates the constitution and spies extensively on its citizens, Jimmy Carter said the US “has no functioning democracy“. Luckily the US media did a pretty good job of keeping a lid on the statement:

Carter’s remarks didn’t appear in the American mainstream press but were reported from Atlanta by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, whose Washington correspondent Gregor Peter Schmitz said on Twitter he was present at the event. The story doesn’t appear in the English-language section of the Spiegel website and is only available in German.

The power of corporate media is, in part, the power of omission. When Edward Snowden did the Brian Williams interview, his comments about having all the intel necessary to stop 9/11 went unaired. Here is a portion of what Snowden said:

“You know, and this is a key question that the 9/11 Commission considered. And what they found, in the post-mortem, when they looked at all of the classified intelligence from all of the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed as an intelligence community, as a classified sector, as the national defense of the United States to detect this plot,” Snowden said. “We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we have.”

Snowden’s NSA disclosures now belong to the billionaire Pierre Omidyar, the man who employs Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Matt Taibbi and other well-known names. Information about the other projects Omidyar bankrolls continues to trickle out, and it should be very concerning (but probably won’t be, considering those who vocally support Greenwald from the left have effective filters insulating them from reality). Chris Floyd has an important article worth reading, further highlighting work from Pando’s Mark Ames, titled Omidyar and the Oligarch’s Code: Enabling Extremism, Monetizing Dissent. Read the whole thing. Here’s a taste:

India is now in the hands of Narendra Modi — a lifelong member of an unabashedly neofascist paramilitary group. His chief claim to fame is presiding over the wanton slaughter of more than 2,000 Muslims as a provincial chief minister — and getting away with it. A staunch neoliberal as well as a neofascist, he is preparing to unleash the by-now standard “shock doctrine” tactics of the pernicious neoliberal cult on the whole country: unrestricted corporate rapine aided by a heavy-handed, all-surveilling militarist state, waging war on the poor — and the very notion of a common good.

What is surprising is that Modi’s rise to power has been aided for years by substantial support, direct and indirect, from an American billionaire widely regarded by the left as one of the world’s great champions of dissent: Pierre Omidyar. But perhaps this is not so surprising when you consider that Omidyar now stands to reap millions if not billions of dollars from Modi’s vow to open up India’s burgeoning e-commerce market to foreign companies — like Omidyar’s eBay, as Mark Ames reports at PandoDaily.

Ames provides a detailed look at Omidyar’s extensive involvement with Modi and his sinister movement. The story could serve as a companion piece to Ames’ earlier investigation into Omidyar’s relentless efforts to “monetize” philanthropy — turning it into a money-making tool for a small elite while wreaking havoc among those it is ostensibly trying to help. A key element in this monetization of human misery on the part of Omidyar and his cronies is the privatization of state services aimed at providing some measure of support, opportunity and social justice for ordinary people. In country after country, our neoliberal extremists are pushing policies to turn every aspect of human community into profitable enterprises under corporate control.

To do this, of course, one must also “monetize” democracy itself. Thus, as Ames and others have pointed out, Omidyar has also been active in “pro-democracy” NGOs and other organizations in foreign countries, working closely with Washington to bring down regimes considered insufficiently open to the strip-mining of national wealth and resources by Western elites. The aim, as in Ukraine, where Omidyar’s partnership with government was particularly active, is to replace the regimes with technocrats willing to stick the shock doctrine cattle prod to their own people.

It’s very unfortunate great investigative journalists have allowed themselves to be commodified by a conniving billionaire who looks at the world to figure out how to extract even more wealth from an increasingly desperate global population of peasants and serfs. It’s disgusting.

by lizard

America lost the Vietnam War. That should be an established historical fact. But America is an exceptional nation with exquisite propaganda at its disposal, so despite losing a war that allegedly started in 1962, the Obama administration is planning a 13 year, multi-phase propaganda offensive called the Vietnam War Commemoration Project:

The Vietnam War was finally over in 1975 when the North prevailed over the US proxy formulation known as South Vietnam, which then disappeared as a “nation,” as many thousands of our betrayed Vietnamese allies fled in small boats or were subjected to unpleasant internment camps and frontier development projects deep in the hostile jungles.

In a word, the Vietnam War was a debacle for everyone involved.

Now, we learn the United States government is planning a 13-year propaganda project to clean up the image of the Vietnam War in the minds of Americans. It’s called The Vietnam War Commemoration Project. President Obama officially launched the project on Memorial Day with a speech at the Vietnam Wall in Washington. The Project was established by Section 598 of the 604-page National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2008. It budgets $5 million a year.

“Some have called this war era a scar on our country,” Obama told the specially invited Vietnam veteran crowd at The Wall. “But here’s what I say. As any wound heals, the tissue around it becomes tougher, becomes stronger than before. And in this sense, finally, we might begin to see the true legacy of Vietnam. Because of Vietnam and our veterans, we now use American power smarter, we honor our military more, we take care of our veterans better. Because of the hard lessons of Vietnam, because of you, America is even stronger than before.”

Obama made that deceitful speech on Memorial Day, 2012, two years before the VA scandal exposed how taking better care of a veterans is a bunch of bullshit lip-service that doesn’t correlate with reality.

So what will this project entail? Here are some details:

Phase One of the Commemoration Project goes through 2014 and “will focus on recruiting support and participation nationwide. There will inevitably be international, national, regional, state, and local events planned, but a focus will be on the hometown level, where the personal recognitions and thanks are most impactful. The target is to obtain 10,000 Commemorative Partners.” Phase Two, through 2017, will encourage these Partners to commit to two events a year. “The DoD Commemoration Office will develop and host a ‘Master Calendar’ to list all the events, reflecting tens of thousands of events across the nation, as we thank and honor our Vietnam veterans.” Phase Three, from 2017 to 2025, will focus on “sustainment” of the positive legacy established in Phases One and Two and will involve “targeted activities” as deemed necessary.

Vietnam-era vets are aging and dying and the last thing they need is a propaganda offensive trying to spin the horrific slaughter perpetrated against Vietnam into some noble imperial fairy-tale.

One of those vets is John Kerry, a man who, as Secretary of State, recently told Edward Snowden he should “Man Up” and return to face charges under the Espionage Act. Dave Lindorff takes on that line of reasoning:

Let’s be clear here. As Kerry surely knows, Snowden, under the Espionage Act, would not even be allowed to present — even at the sentencing phase of any trial — an argument justifying his decision to copy the NSA data, and to provide it to journalists. Nor, under the Espionage Act, would he be permitted to argue that the data had been unconstitutionally obtained by the NSA, or that it was improperly classified as secret. None of that would be permitted. All he would have a right to do would be to attempt the impossible and try to prove that he did not steal the data.

That is not a genuine trial. That is a witch-hunt. It is a star-chamber trial, like those routinely orchestrated in Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia.

Snowden doesn’t need to prove his machismo. He has displayed more guts in singlehandedly exposing the staggering crimes of the NSA and the Obama administration against the American people, and the people of the world, than John Kerry has shown in his entire sorry life. In fact, if Kerry had any real courage, he would admit to the American people that he nearly managed to drag this country into a tragic war in Syria (on the side of Al Qaeda!), with the lies he spouted about a purported slam-dunk case of poison gas use by Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad last year. He would admit that his own State Department was behind the bloody coup that toppled the elected government of Ukraine. And he would admit that the fliers circulated in pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine purporting to require Ukranian Jews to register with the local rebel government were frauds and a false-flag action designed to discredit the rebels.

Kerry knows what courage is mainly because he is so clearly lacking in it. That was made abundantly evident during his sorry campaign for president back in 2004, when he ran as fast as he could from his brief history as a critic of American imperial war-making back in 1971, presenting himself instead as a bronze star-honored killer.

But his real gutlessness lies in his failure to denounce the Obama Administration’s new $65-million, 13-year campaign called the Vietnam War Commemoration Project, which aims to revise history and portray the Vietnam War as a noble and heroic American effort to spread freedom and democracy. Kerry knows full well, having participated in that decade-long genocidal atrocity, and having once passionately spoken out against it, that this huge taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to erase all memory of America’s crimes in Indochina is propaganda worthy of Goebbels. That he hasn’t quit his Secretary of State post in disgust to protest this sick project and offered his support instead to an effort by some Vietnam Vets to challenge that lie called the Vietnam War Commemoration CORRECTION Project, tells us all we need to know.

Kerry has no right to question anyone’s “manhood.”

Right on, Dave.

by lizard

It was great to see Patrick Duganz put up a post about the Montana Secular Summit happening June 21st in Helena. I hope there’s more to come, on that front.

In the comments, Turner offered this:

Sounds like an event worth attending. I don’t have any questions about atheism. I have plenty of questions about religion. I’m especially puzzled about the number of fairly intelligent people who remain religious.

Since it’s obvious Turner assumes religious tendencies exists on the negative side of his intelligence spectrum, it might be helpful to just touch on a definition of intelligence:

the ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations

Instead of using that definition as a mallet to pound on my pet issues, like “but Democrats blah blah blah“, I’m going to try and take a little virtual space to describe how I, as an agnostic, am increasingly drawn toward a personal belief in the tangible existence of evil.

I’m going to start with the first time I ever heard The Doors.

The movie Lost Boys was released in 1987. It featured the two Corey’s, Feldman and Haim. I’m not sure what year I actually watched the movie, but it was probably a few years later, on VHS. I do remember hearing People are Strange for the first time, because it was a part of the sound track.

The Doors via Lost Boys provided my musical introduction to the counterculture of the 60′s. Reading The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test solidified my fascination with that time period and the cultural shifts that occurred.

About six years ago a friend turned me on to this guy doing research into the dark origins of the hippie movement, David McGowan. That research has finally been put into book form, and the book is titled Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops and the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream. If you think you have an inkling about how hippies came to represent the cultural shifts happening post WWII, think again.

What McGowan has assembled is a dark web of connections among the key originators of the hippie scene and the military/industrial complex. In this interview, McGowan describes the basic gist:

Thomas McGrath: Tell us about Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon. What is this new book’s central thesis?

David McGowan: To the extent that it has a central thesis, I would say that it is that the music and counterculture scene that sprung to life in the 1960s was not the organic, grassroots resistance movement that it is generally perceived to be, but rather a movement that was essentially manufactured and steered. And a corollary to that would be that for a scene that was supposed to be all about peace, love and understanding, there was a very dark, violent underbelly that this book attempts to expose.

That’s a pretty audacious assertion, and it begs the question why? Here’s another question/answer from the interview that offers an answer:

Thomas McGrath: You propose that hippie culture was established to neutralise the anti-war movement. But I also interpreted your book as suggesting that, as far as you’re concerned, there’s also some resonance between what you term “psychedelic occultism” (the hippie counterculture) and the “elite” philosophy/theology? You think this was a second reason for its dissemination?

David McGowan: Yes, I do. Hippie culture is now viewed as synonymous with the anti-war movement, but as the book points out, that wasn’t always the case. A thriving anti-war movement existed before the first hippie emerged on the scene, along with a women’s rights movement, a black empowerment/Black Panther movement, and various other movements aimed at bringing about major changes in society. All of that was eclipsed by and subsumed by the hippies and flower children, who put a face on those movements that was offensive to mainstream America and easy to demonize. And as you mentioned, a second purpose was served as well – indoctrinating the young and impressionable into a belief system that serves the agenda of the powers that be.

This new way of looking at the hippie phenomenon is quite dislocating, so I don’t think there’s much of a chance that McGowan’s premise will be taken seriously. But for those knee-jerk critics who would quickly dismiss this inquiry as farcical, read the book then tell me McGowan isn’t on to something substantial with far reaching implications for all of us struggling to understand the world and the forces that shape it.

Quick Hits

by lizard

Internationally, Nationally, Locally, it’s the same craziness over and over again. In Ukraine, the new president is already killing “pro-Russian” rebels. We haven’t heard anything from The Polish Wolf about Ukraine since April 13th, when he declared how The American Left has Failed on Ukraine. Now that PW’s assertion has been exposed for the crap it was back then, I guess he doesn’t have anything to say.

Nationally, our economy is Back in the Red and another disturbed young man killed a bunch of people with a gun. Regarding the latter, Ruth Fowler criticized the immediate media flurry around the cause du jour of this latest tragedy: misogyny:

Jessica Valenti in The Guardian makes the fatuous point that Elliot Rodger’s California shooting spree is “Further proof that misogyny kills”, as if the feminist movement and history has been lacking ample evidence up until this moment. She bolsters her argument by quoting her friends’ tweets, as if they too are the “further proof” that White Feminists have needed that they’re a peculiarly oppressed and tormented species. Delving onto twitter, other feminists resort to bad drama: When you are an affluent man who benefits from white supremacy, knowing how to talk to the police gets you a free pass… TO MURDER. @thetinavelazquez writes. In fact, everyone from Salon to The Guardian to The Atlantic to The New Statesman to The Huffington Post to Twitter, all basically say the same thing: Elliot Rodgers killed because he hated women, although they all seem to be conveniently missing each other’s articles and acting as if they’re the only ones drawing such a ‘radical’ conclusion.

Let’s cut the crap. Killers are not usually attracted to nonviolent philosophies, peaceful ideologies and challenging systemic oppression. Quit fucking acting like it’s a surprise Elliot Rodger was a misogynistic, racist, sex starved, white male privileged fuck either formed by, or attracted to, the kinds of ideologies expressed in his disgusting manifesto.

Locally, there’s another story about panhandling and this time, after admitting the ordinances aren’t working, the discussion seems to be centered around increasing the punishment to include jail time:

“The ordinance really hasn’t helped, and I’m not so sure it didn’t re-educate these guys,” said Worden’s Market owner Tim France. “They are more intractable, it seems. They’re clear about knowing where they can sit, and I’ve watched them sit for hours and hours and hours, even after multiple contacts by law enforcement.”

To deal with the problem, some have called for fines and possible jail time for repeat offenders. France has adjusted his business by monitoring liquor sales and types. Other downtown establishments that sell packaged liquor may do the same in an effort to forge their own solution.

France said he recently observed two intoxicated transients engage in a fistfight in the middle of the day with families nearby. It was one of several examples given to highlight the problems business owners and downtown shoppers face.

Why are physical assaults going unpunished? The article doesn’t get into that. Instead, we hear about a multimillion dollar investor telling city officials we need to clean up downtown Missoula:

Ellen Buchanan, executive director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, met recently with developers eying a high-priced project in the Riverfront Triangle.

After the meeting, one developer spent an evening downtown. Despite his worldly travels, he was less than pleased with the level of panhandling, aggressive behavior and inebriation he witnessed among Missoula’s transient population.

“He told me, ‘You’ve got some cleaning up to do in your downtown,’ ” Buchanan told the committee. “This is someone who’s looking at a multi-multimillion-dollar investment downtown. His concerns certainly caught my attention.”

I ran across an interesting article from Slate calling for a tripling of alcohol taxes because alcohol is a very dangerous drug:

Why would I, a great lover of the free enterprise system, want the alcohol market to be more heavily regulated? Precisely because I’m a believer in the power of the profit motive, I understand how deadly it can be when the product being sold is intoxication. For-profit businesses exist to increase sales. The most straightforward way to do that is not to encourage everyone to drink moderately, but to focus on the small minority of people who drink the most. That is exactly what liquor companies do, and they’ll do more of it if we let Big Liquor have its way. In Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, the authors estimate that at current beer prices, it costs about $5 to $10 to get drunk, or a dollar or two per drunken hour. To get a sense of what the world would look like if that price fell significantly, go to a typical town square in England on a weekend night, where alcohol-fueled violence is rampant, or to Russia, where the ruling class has used cheap vodka as a tool to keep the population drunk, passive, and stupid for generations.

We shouldn’t be satisfied with keeping the per dollar cost of getting drunk where it is today. We should make it higher. Much higher. Kleiman and his colleagues Jonathan P. Caulkins and Angela Hawken have suggested tripling the federal alcohol tax from 10 cents a drink to 30 cents a drink, an increase that they estimate would prevent 6 percent of homicides and 6 percent of motor vehicle deaths, thus sparing 3,000 lives (1,000 from the drop in homicides, 2,000 from safer highways) every year. Charging two-drink-per-day drinkers an extra $12 per month seems like a laughably small price to pay to deter binge drinking. Then, of course, there is the fact that a higher alcohol tax would also raise revenue. If you’re going to tax tanning beds and sugary soft drinks, why on earth wouldn’t you raise alcohol taxes too? If anything, 30 cents a drink isn’t high enough. Let’s raise the alcohol tax to a point just shy of where large numbers of people will start making illegal moonshine in their bathtubs.

An interesting line of thinking, and probably a better approach than jailing addicts so chemically dependent to booze that going cold turkey could kill them.

By Duganz

Long time and no see around these parts. What can I say? I moved away from Missoula a few years ago and with that came a sense of staying out of the conversation while Liz, JC and J-Girl continued bringing up progressive ideas in the blogosphere.

Not that I’ve been silent. I just haven’t been blogging here.

Recently I became involved in a the first ever Montana Secular Summit and I am really excited about it. Finally a bunch of secular Montanans will be gathering to talk about the issues facing our state, and how to keep the great wall of church and state present. I am so excited to be a part of it, and I really want to hear from 4&20 readers and hope to see a few in Helena on June 21st. Dr. David Orenstein will be there as a keynote speaker, and will surely be an entertaining guest. And then there will also be a lot of secular Montanans hanging out and being their lovely selves.

Well, why is that important? Because according to Pew Research, 20percent of Montana is without religion. That’s a lot of people in a state represented (currently, ick) by Steve “the world is 6,000 years old” Daines.

So, I hope that you’ll join me and a bunch of folks from around our great state as we celebrate being good without god, and just being humans.

If you’d like I will answer as many questions as I can about atheism, humanism and secularism should you leave comments on this post. Otherwise, have a nice day and please consider coming to Helena on June 21st to celebrate freedom and freethought.

by lizard

Memorial day is suppose to be a time where we, as a nation, remember the men (and women) who died in the violent theaters of war; the socially acceptable way to harness and direct the violent capacity of mankind.

This Memorial day weekend is different. Man’s capacity for violence is under the microscope thanks to a shooting rampage in Santa Barbara. The man pulling the trigger in this latest episode of horrific gun violence is Elliot Rodger, a 22 year old autistic rich kid who turned his inability to connect with women into a shooting spree that left 6 people dead and over a dozen injured. In the wake of this tragedy, the digital footprint of this disturbed young man has sparked a firestorm of criticism toward the mens rights movement (and subcultures of that movement, like pick-up artists). This from Slate:

On Friday night, a gunman killed six people in Santa Barbara, and the killer himself was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head. Soon after police began investigating the crime, 22-year-old student Elliot Rodger emerged as the main suspect. Like many modern mass murders, this one left a robust digital trail, including a video Rodger recently posted to YouTube where he parks his BMW in front of a bank of palm trees and describes his plan to seek retribution from the women who have rejected him. Rodger calls himself the “perfect guy” and a “supreme gentleman” who’s been overlooked by women who prefer “obnoxious brutes.” Then he lays out his plans to “enter the hottest sorority house of [the University of California, Santa Barbara], and … slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut I see inside there.” To “all those girls I’ve desired so much,” he says, “you will finally see that I am the superior one, the true alpha male.”

Rodger’s language is familiar to anyone who’s spent time exploring the Pick-Up Artist or Men’s Rights Activist communities. Rodger was a “Nice Guy,” a man who feels he is entitled to sex based on positive personality traits known only to him. (“I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it. That’s a crime that can never be forgiven,” he said). He aspired to be an “Alpha,” the most attractive, dominant man in his group, but felt he’s been wrongly dismissed as an inferior “Beta.” Pick-Up Artists, by the way, refer to women they would like to have sex with as their “targets.”

On Twitter the hashtag #YesAllWomen quickly emerged as a way to catalogue the pervasive harassment women experience. Here’s a quote from the author Margaret Atwood:

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” ~ Margaret Atwood #NotAllMen #YesAllWomen

Though the criticism of much of this men’s rights movement is very warranted, there is a longstanding crisis with the male identity that needs some more honest engagement. I think that engagement started happening with a book by the poet Robert Bly, titled Iron John: A Book About Men (1990). This book helped spark the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement:

Because most men no longer perform masculine rituals, mythopoets assert that men have mutated into destructive, hypermasculine chauvinists, or, in the opposite direction, have become too feminized. The mythopoetic men performed rituals at these gatherings, which were meant to imitate those performed by tribal societies when men initiated boys into a deeply essential natural manhood. The movement emphasized the importance of including multiple generations of men in the rituals, so that the men could learn about masculinity from those who were older and wiser.[1]

Characteristic of the early mythopoetic movement was a tendency to retell myths, legends and folktales, and engage in their exegesis as a tool for personal insight. Using frequent references to archetypes as drawn from Jungian analytical psychology, the movement focused on issues of gender role, gender identity and wellness for the modern man (and woman). Advocates would often engage in storytelling with music, these acts being seen as a modern extension to a form of “new age shamanism” popularized by Michael Harner at approximately the same time. The movement sought to empower men by means of equating archetypal characters with their own emotions and abilities. For instance, Michael Messner describes the concept of “Zeus energy” as emphasizing “male authority accepted for the good of the community”. Beliefs about the emotional system based in archetypes of great men, mythopoets sought to channel these characters in themselves, so that they could unleash their “animal-males”. This group primarily analyzed the archetypes of King, Warrior, Magician, Lover and Wildman.[1]

Here is a quote from Bly’s book:

”During the fifties, for example, the American character appeared with some consistency that became a model of manhood adopted by many men: the Fifties male. He got to work early, labored responsibly, supported his wife and children and admired discipline. Reagan is a sort of mummified version of this dogged type. This sort of man didn’t see women’s souls well, but he appreciated their bodies; and his view of culture and America’s part in it was boyish and optimistic. Many of his qualities were strong and positive, but underneath the charm and bluff there was, and there remains, much isolation, deprivation, and passivity. Unless he has an enemy, he isn’t sure that he is alive. The Fifties man was supposed to like football, be aggressive, stick up for the United States, never cry, and always provide…. During the sixties, another sort of man appeared. The waste and violence of the Vietnam war made men question whether they knew what an adult male really was. If manhood meant Vietnam, did they want any part of it? Meanwhile, the feminist movement encouraged men to actually look at women, forcing them to become conscious of concerns and sufferings that the Fifties male labored to avoid.”

Masculinity is not a de facto negative trait, but as the roles of providing and protecting are compromised by the ravages of late-stage capitalism, the angst of not being able to fulfill the conventional masculine roles seems to breed anger, resentment, and violence. While feminism has made impressive strides in redefining the role of women in society, I think the biggest failure of feminism has been the reluctance to acknowledge what that redefinition means for men.

By focusing attention on the negative aspects of masculinity, the gender reset that needed to happen but didn’t may actually be pushing men into seeking hyper-masculine identities to compensate for the confusion of a perceived cultural impotence, especially when it comes to the economic role as provider.

As the father of two young boys, I get to model my interpretation of masculinity for them. For me, that means making sure they understand it’s ok to experience the full range of emotions, especially those that make us cry. The relationship I have with my wife is also critical, because how my wife and I work together provides the social cues that our boys will take with them in their interactions with the opposite sex. It’s a tremendous responsibility.

It’s unfortunate that tragedy seems to be the driving catalyst for these conversations. I’m interested to hear what others think.

by lizard

Forbes has a cute title for an article about the 400 billion dollar gas deal between Russia and China: A Game of Spigots? The article describes the deal as an opportunity for both respective leaders to strengthen ailing national oil companies:

Russia to China gas deal is more than just a story of global markets and geopolitics (see my colleague Ken Medlock’s piece on the deal’s impact on global and Asian gas markets, and Jim Krane’s piece on global geopolitical implications of the negotiations). The gas pipeline between China and Russia also represents concrete personal achievements that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping can point to in defending their authoritarian policies against criticism from home and abroad. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the gas deal is a game of spigots: a well-timed effort by both Russia and China to simultaneously inject resources in to ailing national oil and gas companies (NOCs) in exchange for new political control over these flagship state enterprises.

The idea of national oil companies might sound crazy to rabid Capitalists, but when you look at the lovely set-up Big Oil has in the states, the craziness is how American taxpayers subsidize the most profitable industry in the world:

US oil companies earn about $3 billion in profits every week, yet get $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies every year. In the first quarter of 2011, Big Oil’s profits were up 38% from the first quarter of 2010.

The industry’s outsize profits didn’t stop it from squealing like a stuck pig over proposals to trim $2 billion from its annual subsidies and use the revenue to reduce the deficit by about $21 billion over 10 years.

The oil companies tried to characterize the end of their subsidies as a “tax hike,” despite growing and widespread recognition across the political spectrum that tax breaks are just another form of government spending, one of several ways to provide direct support for an industry. Before becoming Speaker, John Boehner (R-Ohio) admitted that “tax deductions, credits, and special carve-outs . . . what Washington sometimes calls tax cuts are really just poorly disguised spending programs ….”

Subsidizing the oil industry is bad enough. Sending soldiers to Iraq to kill and die for the oil industry is beyond obscene. Here’s Mike Whitney’s latest, titled Iraq: the Biggest Petroleum Heist in History? Here’s an excerpt:

Dr Abdulhay Yahya Zalloum, an international oil consultant and economist …(said) he believes western oil companies have successfully acquired the lions’ share of Iraq’s oil, “but they gave a little piece of the cake for China and some of the other countries and companies to keep them silent”. (Aljazeera)

How do you like that? These guys operate just like the Mafia. The Bossman pays off China with a few million barrels, and China keeps its mouth shut. Nice. Everyone gets “their cut” so they don’t go blabbing to the media about the ripoff that’s taking place in broad daylight. The stench of corruption is overpowering.

And here’s something else you won’t see in the media. In a White House press release, the Obama administration announced that they would continue to support Iraq’s “efforts to develop the energy sector” in order to “help boost Iraq’s oil production.”….

According to Assim Jihad, spokesman for Iraq’s ministry of oil, “Iraq has a goal of raising its oil production capacity to 12m bpd by 2017, which would place it in the top echelon of global producers.” (Aljazeera)

“12 million barrels-per-day by 2017″?

That makes this the biggest petroleum heist in history. And we’re supposed to believe that the oil bigwigs didn’t know anything about this before the war? What a crock! I’ll bet you even money the CEOs and their lackeys figured out that Saudi Arabia was running out of gas, so they decided to pick up stakes and move their operations to good old Mesopotamia. That’s why they put their money on Bush and Cheney, because they knew that two former oil men would do the heavy lifting once they got shoehorned into the White House. The whole thing was a set-up from the get-go, right down to the 5 shady Supremes who suspended the voting in Florida and crowned Bush emperor in 2000. The whole thing was probably mapped out years in advance.

Big oil runs everything in America. People talk about the power of Wall Street and Israel, but oil is still king. They run it all, and they own it all. And “what they say, goes.”

Too simplistic? Maybe. But it’s hard to overstate the influence of Big Oil.

by lizard

In a Cowgirl post titled Extremist Legislators Left 50,000 in the Coverage Gap the failure of expanding Medicaid is placed solely on Tea Party legislators:

A faction of extreme right legislators banded together during the last session to refuse the federal funds to pay for 100% of the health care benefits for working poor Montanans.

What Cowgirl glosses over is the mistaken vote from Democrat Tom Jacobson that ultimately kept Medicaid expansion dead in committee. Here is how the Washington Post described how that disastrous vote got miscast:

“It was near the end of the session,” says Jacquie Helt, director of SEIU Healthcare 775 Northwest, who had lobbied hard for the expansion. “I can’t imagine the fatigue they’re all feeling at that point.”

This is when “the vote” — as many Montanans I spoke with described the mistaken ballot — occurred. When the Medicaid expansion bill came up, Republican House Speaker Mark Bladsel motioned for the legislation to be sent back to committee, where many observers expected that it would languish.

Here’s how Hunter describes what happened next. “It was tense,” he says. “I’m standing up, I’m appealing the speaker’s decision and he’s reading the rule [that says he can refer it to committee.].

“We had some procedural motions to challenge the speaker. One of our Democratic members pushed the wrong button. That procedural motion failed on a tied vote.”

That legislator was Tom Jacobson, a freshman from a central Montana town called Great Falls. Jacobson told local reporters that he got the vote wrong, although he did not respond to my phone calls and e-mail requesting comment.

Montana’s House rules do generally allow legislators to change their votes (Bangarter told me that these changes were generally accompanied by a $20 donation to charity, but I could not find anything about that in the statute). They do not, however, allow legislators to change their vote if “it would affect the outcome of legislation.” And in this case, it would change the outcome: One vote flipping would mean the Medicaid expansion would make it to the floor.

“We got very close to pulling this off,” Montana Hospital Association’s John Flink says. “If the person who made the mistake had voted the correct way, the bill would have gone to the floor. We had the votes there.”

So unlike the other 20+ plus states that saw a chance to figuratively punch poor people in the face, Montana has the dubious distinction of being the one state that turned its back on Federal Medicaid funds because a freshman legislator voted the wrong way, and this is part of the consequence of that vote:

In states that have opted not to expand, adults earning more than 100 percent of the poverty level, but less than the 139 percent or above required to be eligible for subsidies on the PPACA-administered exchanges, will find themselves in a health coverage no-man’s land.

In effect, millions of adults who otherwise would have qualified for coverage will find health care still out of their reach.

Mental health experts across the country warn that pulling the carpet from under the country’s poorest and most vulnerable — the mentally ill — will force them to turn to more costly, and less effective, channels such as emergency rooms.

In Missouri, “hospitals are decreasing their psychiatric beds because [those patients] are the highest percentage of non-payers,” says Diane Maguire, a director at Places for People, another community health center in Missouri. “Often the people we serve are not able to get services at more traditional agencies due to their active symptoms.”

It also will strain law enforcement, which is often forced to respond to emergencies involving the untreated mentally ill and typically needs to transport patients to distant centers. Prisoners with mental illness cost the nation an average of nearly $9 billion a year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Gee, I wonder if there is any common sense approach that could be both a more humane way of treating those in our community with mental illness, and also save money?

“The numbers are stunning,” Andrae Bailey, the CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, told the Orlando Sentinel. “Our community will spend nearly half a billion dollars [on the chronically homeless], and at the end of the decade, these people will still be homeless.”

Bailey is referring to numbers recently found by Creative Housing Solutions, which tracked public expenditures on local homeless people in the Central Florida region. Because of costs like frequent emergency room visits, hospital admissions and repeated arrests for homeless-related crimes, the analysis estimated each homeless person costs taxpayers $31,065 each year. To put that into perspective, providing the chronically homeless with permanent housing and case managers to supervise them would be about $10,000 per person each year.

As astounding as those numbers may seem, the data isn’t as groundbreaking as you might think.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte released a study in March that found housing chronically homeless adults produced a 78 percent reduction in emergency room costs — a price tag that would have eventually been passed on to the taxpayer — the Charlotte Observer reported. The numbers also showed the previously homeless tenants in the study spent 84 percent fewer days in jail, largely due to a decrease in crimes like loitering and begging.

In lieu of a special session called by the Governor to grapple with expanding Medicaid coverage, there is the Healthy Montana Initiative (I-170). Across the state, Montanans will have the opportunity to voice their support for I-170 by providing signatures. If you are a registered Montana voter who sees the benefit of covering 70,000 people in this state and creating 20,000 jobs, we need your help.

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