From Gaza to Ferguson

by lizard

As the utterly contemptuous police chief of Ferguson enacted a second assassination on Mike Brown today, it might be helpful to add some context to the militarized police response making international headlines this week.

Tweets of solidarity and advice from Palestinians on social media hinted at a trend that’s been ongoing for years—not militarization, but Israelification—of US law enforcement:

Under the cover of counterterrorism training, nearly every major police agency in the United States has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement, a phenomenon that journalist Max Blumenthal dubbed “the Israelification of America’s security apparatus.” Israeli forces and US police departments are so entrenched that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has opened a branch in Tel Aviv.

In 2011, then St. Louis County Police Department chief Timothy Fitch attended the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, an annual week-long Israeli training camp where US law enforcement executives “study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies” directly from “senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services, and the Israel Defense Forces,” according to the ADL’s website.

Until Thursday night, the St. Louis County Police Department appeared to be the largest most militarized and brutish force operating in Ferguson. “St. Louis County Police” was scrawled across the side of most of the tactical unit vehicles and appeared on the combat-style uniforms of officers aiming assault rifles at peaceful protesters.

The ADL boasts of sending more than 175 senior US law enforcement officials from 100 different agencies to the seminar since 2004, which are “taking the lessons they learned in Israel back to the United States.”

Are Americans going to sit back and take this?

America the Beautiful?

by lizard

In 1893, Katharine Bates wrote a poem about Pikes Peak, the mountain that stands watch over Colorado Springs. That poem was the basis for what later became the song America the Beautiful.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As I walked with my kids and new pup along a beautiful creek, the trash I kept finding in the creek was definitely not beautiful. I think we can all agree on that, right? So, as we fished plastic cups and burst balloons from the water, I thought about how much people in this very conservative city of nearly half a million people really hate paying taxes for services. If having beautiful parks is going to cost us money, then screw beautiful parks. That is apparently the sentiment here. From the link:

In 2009 the city was staring down a $40 million revenue gap and a $700 million infrastructural to-do list, but even when residents were faced with drastic cuts to services, they voted overwhelmingly against a property tax hike. And so, as Zach Patton writes in the September issue of Governing, Colorado Springs’ entrenched base of tax-averse libertarians and conservative evangelicals has created a closely watched model of city management that resembles a civic version of the limbo dance.

How low can Colorado Springs go? Patton reports that the city turned off one-third of its streetlights, removed trash cans from parks, slashed funding to local museums and community centers, and stopped mowing street medians, which became so overrun with weeds that they violated property management codes. Evening and weekend bus service was eliminated entirely. The city flushed 550 people from its payroll.

Looking around my in-laws house, there are beautiful antiques everywhere. There is even a bronze nude statue in one of the rooms. Oh yeah, I thought, some of those artists back in the day used to think the human form was beautiful. Well, I might not be in Missoula right now, but I have managed to stay informed on the latest crisis to descend: naked bicyclists. It appears that there are lots of very passionate descendants of the Puritans ready to burn these evil nudists at the stake for threatening their…their what? I get the annoyance of having some Portland event transposed on our idyllic mountain college town, but there are literally people in tears over this. C’mon, people. Try spending some time in some hell-hole US foreign policy has created, like Libya, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, Yemen, Sudan, Honduras…I guess what I’m trying to say is be thankful you aren’t being murdered and raped and your home blown to pieces.

Of course if you’re black in America, there is always a chance you’ll be murdered by cops or vigilantes. That’s the ugly truth. It doesn’t matter that it’s 2014 and our president’s pigment is darker than all his predecessors. If you’re an unarmed black teenager, at any moment you might get shot and killed. And then, if people show their intense displeasure, be prepared for cops that look like soldiers. Oh, and if these cops need a media blackout as they terrorize you, then the FAA will be happy to oblige by creating a no-fly zone, so news outlets can’t record the police state response to justified rage.

I’m sorry, that’s totally not the official reason for the no-fly zone. From the link:

The reason listed on the Federal Aviation Commission’s website for the no-fly zone over the city is “TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES.”

To get more of a sense of what that means, ThinkProgress called the helicopter dispatcher at the St. Louis County Police Department. St. Louis, not Ferguson, has been “responsible for crowd control,” a Ferguson Police spokesperson said.

According to the dispatcher, the department originally requested the no-fly zone — for certain flights; “the ceiling is only at 5,000 feet,” the dispatcher said, though the website actually lists 3,000 feet — for 24 hours. The department then asked the FAA to extend the ban on flying.

The reason? “It’s just for a no fly zone because we have multiple helicopters maneuvering in the area and we were having some problems with news aircrafts flying around there,” the dispatcher, who would only identify himself by his first name, Chris, said.

The effort to stop media from flying over the area to film is troubling, especially in light of reports that police have turned journalists away from the sites of the protests.

Sometimes artistic expression can make an impact on how we perceive violence in our communities and our world. One great example was the project Not A Bug Splat (please go to the link to see the picture):

We hear a great deal about the ruthless ingenuity of military hardware, but this is something else altogether. It is a new device currently on deployment in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It has the power to startle an enemy for a moment and perhaps even render him incapable of using his weapon afterwards. In the medium-to-long term, the enemy may suffer from impaired judgment and, in some cases, be neutralised. The device is a picture of his victim.

Also, anything Banksy does is brilliant (pics).

But artists sometimes pay a steep price for their artistic sensitivity. Locally, Jaime Kelly killed himself last week, and yesterday the world learned Robin Williams decided to do the same thing. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s also very common. Here’s the wiki breakdown:

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States as of 2010, more people died of suicide than in car accidents. In 2010, the total number of suicide deaths in the United States was 38,364. Historically, suicide rates rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks. In 2009 it was the 7th leading cause of death for males, and the 16th leading cause of death for females. Suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.

Now that a famous person has killed himself, there is the predictable call to de-stigmatize mental illness; to implore those feeling suicidal to seek help; to properly acknowledge the mental health crisis that exists because it’s not a funding priority for a government that only cares what you think if you have money and influence:

A shattering new study by two political science professors has found that ordinary Americans have virtually no impact whatsoever on the making of national policy in our country. The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States.

This national outpouring will maybe last for a day or two. Then some other shiny object will come along and nothing will ultimately come of it.

Because America isn’t beautiful.

Empires in decline rarely are.

by jhwygirl

In full disclosure, I am 200% in the Dave Wanzenried for U.S. Senate camp. I firmly believe that if any democrat candidate has a chance to beat Steve Daines, the only person who’s thrown their hat in the ring that has the bonafides to run for the office and the speaking ability to motivate voters is State Senator Dave Wanzenried. Wilmer was another favorite, but she has withdrawn herself from consideration as of yesterday.

The Montana Democratic Party have a chance here (even though many think it is impossible) to reverse a few things about the Montana U.S. Senate seat race here in Montana that have gone pretty much disastrously so far.

They are able to return this race – sort of – to the people. But already the winds are wafting with party insider activities.

We are 84 days out from the election. In terms of an actual horse race, it really hasn’t started its full run, but there’s no doubt winning is a very very uphill battle for the Montana Democratic Party.

Money…name recognition – it’s a K2 climb, baby – no doubt. Montana Dems have to create excitement to raise the money and get some free press name recognition. They’ll need it to get outside money, which they are, unfortunately, going to have to rely heavily given the very little amount of time the candidate will have to raise cash.

But getting Tester elected in 2006 was that, too. He was an unknown underdog up until the primary. I know – I was making calls for him.

So who is the party insider’s choice to run for the U.S. Senate seat? A 34-year old teacher from Butte, who has one legislative session under her belt. Who decided not to run for re-election, but is considering a state senate seat for 2016. She also wrote a video blog, uploaded to YouTube for most of the 2013 legislative session.

Her name is Amanda Curtis.

Now, I watched some of Amanda’s videos back during the session. I don’t really remember much of her speaking on the floor or in committees, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t. Lots of people have talked about her – she’s certainly a favorite at the Montana Democratic party’s online mouthpiece. She’s shown she has smarts. Curtis got two bills (out of 9) passed in the difficult 2013 legislature, while of the 7 that didn’t get anywhere, 1 made it out of the house and into the state senate, at least.

Not bad for a freshman, really.

Is Curtis U.S. Senate material? I started asking around last Friday when her name came up at the Dem mouthpiece. “Hey – what about Amanda Curtis?” Well, there wasn’t a single person who knew who she was. I’ve probably asked about 20 people at this point. Of even the few that read newspapers and have opinions about Montana politics and actually talk about their opinions – no one knew who Amanda Curtis was. When I told them what I knew, the most common response was a general reply that “well, they weren’t really going to win anyway at this point.”

Currently the only name in the ring that has actually carried barrels of water in the legislature for Montana Democrats is David Wanzenried. Here’s Wanz’s work in the 2013 legislature.

Here’s his work in the 2011 legislature

Here’s 2009.

2007 legislature

2005 legislature.

2003 legislature

I’m not going any further back. Plus, this purpose of this post isn’t to highlight Wanzenried’s accomplishments. I don’t know that the legislative website actually goes back to his start in politics – but you get the gist. Wanzenried has a political resume like no other currently wishing to be considered for the Dems U.S. Senate ticket, and substantial work, at that.

But no – insiders at the Montana Democrats, along with MEA-MFT have – and here I’m going to be blunt and politically incorrect, but very accurate in what those insiders have told me – the insiders have decided that only a woman is going to excite the base, and that means Amanda Curtis, a freshman legislator and teacher from Butte, is the person who should be Montana’s next Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, to replace Max Baucus.

To run against Steve Daines.

Now, for the record, back in 2008 I found McCain’s pick of of the unknown-and-lacking-political-resume Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket an insult. McCain picked Palin because Hillary had created such a stir that he needed a Hail Mary that first week of September in 2008. He needed attention and he needed to separate himself from Obama, which had just blown America away with his Hope stuff at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He needed someone pretty who could grab up some women votes (that Obama was scooping up) and who could excite the youth. McCain and the GOP needed thunder, and they needed the media to give a shit

So they picked a – pardon my vulgarity – they picked a vagina.

They didn’t want a smart woman who could express opinions and thoughts – they wanted someone they thought they could control, and someone that didn’t have a long history to bring up dirt (which sort of came back to bite them, didn’t it?)

I mean – they could have picked Carly Fiorina. They could have picked Elizabeth Dole. Condi Rice! Or Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

But they went with Palin.

It was insulting as a woman that the GOP thought that they could pull votes for McCain by putting any female on the ticket. Not substance – just a woman.

I mean – I can’t stand Carly Fiorina, but I was pissed for her and those other I mentioned. Except Condi – her association w/Bush was enough to make me not care about her.

Sure worked out, though, given the choices. And damn – election night 2012 was over by like 10:30 p.m. MST time, wasn’t it?

I got nothing against Amanda Curtis. She may eventually build a resume that would have her a viable challenge against a candidate like Steve Daines. But if Montana democrats and MEA MFT think that they can elevate a freshman state house representative to a winning US Senate candidate, they are absolutely – dare I say it? – batcrap crazy.

I’d love to have a viable woman potential candidate around. I’ve been reminded by many that now is just as good a time as any. At some point, there’s a choice to be made to support a woman candidate.

Now, unfortunately, does not appear to be that time. If Frankie Wilmer had stayed in, I would have wholeheartedly supported her. Quite honestly, I’m bummed she left the consideration – better to have a pool of quality and experience.

Sadly, without Frankie Wilmer or Denise Juneau, Montana Dems have yet to find themselves a viable woman candidate.

I’m also going to say this – Montana Dems have only themselves to blame for not having a viable woman candidate. They didn’t even have one running in the primary – so they can’t push the blame on Bullock for that.

And the idea that Montana Dems and MEA MFT can push any old female on us as a viable candidate is, quite frankly, sexist.

It’s an insult to me as a woman voter. It’s an insult and it’s sexist.

by lizard

I had no idea when we planned our late summer getaway to Colorado earlier this year how badly I would need the break from Missoula.

On Montana Public Radio yesterday there was a story that preceded the Walsh scandal, a story that’s really rattled me. While most of Missoula was gearing up for Sir Paul’s performance on Tuesday, a body was being pulled out of the Clark Fork River. The investigation moved fast, and for good reason. Details of what happened to his 36 year old HUMAN BEING are incredibly disturbing. I don’t feel like getting into the details, but you can read about it here if you want.

Then, later in the week, a “transient” was caught raping a 50 year old woman (also homeless) in broad daylight downtown, in an alley. A passerby saw the rape in progress and called police.

I wish I could more explicitly counter the homeless hysteria coming. I wish distinctions could be made between the vast majority of people in need of temporary shelter and a meal once in awhile, and the small percentage of drifters and drug-fueled criminals who commit heinous acts of violence.

But I can’t, because I’m over capacity.

Hopefully I’ll keep the posting light while I’m gone.

Stay safe, Missoula. I’m out of here.

by lizard

Was John Walsh the victim of a mean and unfair media attack, the kind of attack that is never directed in the same proportion against Republicans? Don Pogreba’s Few Last Thoughts on Walsh’s political implosion has a comment thread with an interesting smattering of wailing against the media. For the best diatribe, here’s Pete Talbot:

I wasn’t Walsh’s biggest fan — voted for Adams in the primary — but to dump Walsh because he didn’t attribute parts of a paper he wrote for the War College over seven years ago?

This makes me sick.

I used to have respect for journalists and their editors. Now they’re whores for headlines, from the NY Times down to our local rags. There’s Daines: sue the President, fuck the poor and immigrant kids, and a woman’s choice, and health care; deny climate change and, oh yeah, Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Where’s the journalistic outrage on that?

Journalists used to do their own research. I know times are tough in the industry but to rely on opposition research to do your work for you and then make it a big story? Pathetic. Of course, ramp up the pablum on the editorial pages, too: call for Walsh’s resignation. Bold move.

And Montana Democrats are screwed. No big name is going to step up to the plate for the Senate race and the down party ticket is going to suffer; nationally, statewide and locally. It’s a mess.

Nationally, get ready for a Republican controlled Congress. To plagiarize TPM: … the Paul Ryan budget with its huge cuts to safety-net programs and fundamental changes to Medicare … a bevy of limits on access to abortion and birth control, harsh and punitive measures aimed at immigrants and lower-income people who get public assistance, and repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety (and) a whole lot of ideological grandstanding, including, most recently, the attempt to sue the President.

Same statewide and in your own hometown.

On that note, I’m having a shot and going to bed.

Don Pogreba, of course, agrees (and of course, as always, he’s astonished):

I agree. I’ve always been a pain in the ass critic of the media in Montana, but this has been astonishing. The worst I can remember.

I don’t know that I’ve been angrier, or more worried about the direction we’re headed, in a long time.

I have learned from reading Democrat blogs that it’s just fine to be critical of the media when it’s hitting your candidate or issue.

But sometimes it’s not okay to blame the media, like when Kirsten Pabst railed against the Missoulian and Gwen Florio for stoking the rape scandal. To be fair, scapegoating the media in that case did come off as tasteless, considering the source.

And sometimes, if your both critical of the US media (like Talbot’s now despised New York Times) and open to the perspective of enemy state media, then not only are you a crazy conspiracy theorist, but you’re also an anti-American.

But media smear campaigns are ok if they are against crazy libertarian presidential candidates, like Ron Paul, so don’t expect any wailing about the unfair treatment of Ron Paul from those now aghast at the media in regards to Walsh.

In Ron Paul’s case, it was more conservatives jumping on the racist newsletter media attack because Ron Paul was gaining in the polls, thus a threat (that sounds kinda familiar).

I bring up Ron Paul because, as Democrats are licking their wounds and taking shots of booze, a recent piece in that dastardly New York Times is wondering has the libertarian moment arrived ?

Before getting to that piece, I pointed out to Pete Talbot in the comment thread of my last post that Democrats are losing ground with the youth vote to libertarians, to which Pete responded with this:

So how do you woo them back? With Libertarian policies of Social Darwinism; including no government, no regulation — basically anarcho-capitalism?

I think the first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging there is, in fact, a problem. A problem with Democrats. From the NYT piece:

Libertarians, who long have relished their role as acerbic sideline critics of American political theater, now find themselves and their movement thrust into the middle of it. For decades their ideas have had serious backing financially (most prominently by the Koch brothers, one of whom, David H., ran as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian Party ticket), intellectually (by way of policy shops like the Cato Institute and C.E.I.) and in the media (through platforms like Reason and, as of last year, “The Independents”). But today, for perhaps the first time, the libertarian movement appears to have genuine political momentum on its side. An estimated 54 percent of Americans now favor extending marriage rights to gay couples. Decriminalizing marijuana has become a mainstream position, while the drive to reduce sentences for minor drug offenders has led to the wondrous spectacle of Rick Perry — the governor of Texas, where more inmates are executed than in any other state — telling a Washington audience: “You want to talk about real conservative governance? Shut prisons down. Save that money.” The appetite for foreign intervention is at low ebb, with calls by Republicans to rein in federal profligacy now increasingly extending to the once-sacrosanct military budget. And deep concern over government surveillance looms as one of the few bipartisan sentiments in Washington, which is somewhat unanticipated given that the surveiller in chief, the former constitutional-law professor Barack Obama, had been described in a 2008 Times Op-Ed by the legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen as potentially “our first president who is a civil libertarian.”

Meanwhile, the age group most responsible for delivering Obama his two terms may well become a political wild card over time, in large part because of its libertarian leanings. Raised on the ad hoc communalism of the Internet, disenchanted by the Iraq War, reflexively tolerant of other lifestyles, appalled by government intrusion into their private affairs and increasingly convinced that the Obama economy is rigged against them, the millennials can no longer be regarded as faithful Democrats — and a recent poll confirmed that fully half of voters between ages 18 and 29 are unwedded to either party. Obama has profoundly disappointed many of these voters by shying away from marijuana decriminalization, by leading from behind on same-sex marriage, by trumping the Bush administration on illegal-immigrant deportations and by expanding Bush’s N.S.A. surveillance program. As one 30-year-old libertarian senior staff member on the Hill told me: “I think we expected this sort of thing from Bush. But Obama seemed to be hip and in touch with my generation, and then he goes and reads our emails.”

Desperate to lay everything at the feet of Republicans, here again is Pete Talbot:

I don’t believe Obama has disenfranchised young voters as much as you say, JC, but young people want a panacea and that ain’t America right now. The science-denying, hate-the-poor, war-mongering Republicans are getting close to taking over Congress. Can you explain that?

Sure, Obama has disappointed to some degree on some issues, but it’s the whole damn system: a do-nothing Congress, absurd Supreme Court rulings and corrupt campaign financing that have really turned them off. Most of the blame, but not all of these failings, lies with the Republicans, don’t you think?

I suppose I can’t blame youngsters for looking at an alternative party. I did. But the Koch funded Libertarians? Shit.

The more I think about it: the wars, the free marketeering, the safety net cuts; assaults on the environment, women, children and immigrants — I repeat myself for the umpteenth time — fall mostly in Republican laps.

Pete can say it, but that doesn’t mean the kids will buy it.

The sad reality is the Obama brand they were sold was the same crony-capitalist product lurking behind nice, richly pigmented packaging. And that product has continued to push the establishment consensus of perpetual war and domestic austerity.

Is the whole damn system corrupt? Pretty much, yeah. So why are people surprised when a distorted media gets an assist in a political take-down? Why do some partisans find the local media’s participation so astonishing?

Montana Democrats will probably learn some lessons from this Baucus to Hail-Mary-Candidate debacle, like invest more in opposition research. And expand dark money libertarian honey pots to peel off support from the Christo-fascists. And buy a few more ad spots in local newspapers to help their failing business model.

The problem is I don’t think those are the right lessons.

by lizard

The clock is ticking for the Walsh campaign. Politico brought out the long knives with this piece citing political opportunists excited to nibble on carrion.

To further feed the frenzy, Cowgirl drops some clues, like this:

There’s another thing I learned tonight, courtesy of an astute tipster: Nancy Keenan’s name appears to have been fully scrubbed from the website of the political firm that she works for, Hilltop Public Solutions. That’s a political consulting firm with an office in Billings as well as other cities around America. This cannot be a coincidence.

Followed a few paragraphs later with this:

One final piece of intrigue. Hilltop Public Solutions is, in addition to employing Keenan, the firm that has been doing all of Walsh’s campaign work, taking a hefty fee. The firm is a collection of former Baucus and Tester staffers. Much of what we are reading and seeing about Walsh today–the sources, the spokespeople, etc.–is the work of this firm. So if Walsh has reached the end of the line, he is, in his final hours, depending on a workforce with a serious conflict of interest. It’s interesting if nothing else. And it’s proof again that politics is a place where self interest always lurking. I suppose, however, that I can’t blame them for wanting to dump him in favor of Keenan, who will most certainly hire back the firm, which is her former employer.

In the comment thread of that post a commenter by the name of publius takes a shot a jhwygirl. I only draw attention to it because I think it’s unfair to extend the conspiratorial smear JC and I have received to an author of this site who has much more broad credibility and for good reason. She earned it.

I do find it curious that publius would say this:

Oh- oh, someone has alarmed the conspiracy theorists

just because jhwygirl tweets stuff like this:

Start talking about Wanzenried & Frankie Wilmer & immediately party blog drops the chosen one’s name. #MTPol

and this:

Walsh’s withdrawal will be timed so there is ZERO time for grassroots swell. Brought to you once again by Montana Democrats. #MTPol

Montana Democrats fucked this one up bad. I mean, even Don Pogreba is begging Walsh for a decision:

You’ve received absolutely unfair criticism and harassment from a press obsessed with a relatively trivial matter that’s easy to editorialize about. You’ve probably received criticism from people who are more interested in furthering their own agendas than in protecting yours. And you’re probably angry, understandably so.

But you need to make a decision about this campaign. Either way, I know that you’ll fight for the people of this state until the end of your term, because that’s the kind of person you are and the kind of person you’ll continue to be.

I’m trying to be charitable by not quoting more.

Fridays are good news days to dump things, so I expect that could be the day we hear the decision.

Until then, good time to generate buzz is being wasted.


The mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

By JC

In remembrance of all that happened 69 years ago… Out of such power, empires are born and pursued. Please give Thomas Merton’s “Original Child Bomb” prose poem a listen and contemplate the fate of thousands of nuclear bombs still pointed at targets around the world.

“Original Child Bomb” is one of a small number of pieces written by Thomas Merton which he described as “anti-poems…” Merton’s anti-poems are characterised by the conscious and ironic use of the debased but now-commonplace language that masks the horror of genocide. 

(Pull quote, poem text and audio from “Dante’s Ghost”)

 

 

Full text of “Original Child Bomb” below the fold.
Continue Reading »

by lizard

There is a scandal that should, at the very least, destroy Brennan’s career. If it doesn’t, what does that say about the executive office? About American democracy? At Counterpunch today, Dave Lindorff doesn’t mince words:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says that John Brennan, the director of the CIA who has finally admitted that he lied when he angrily and repeatedly insisted that the agency did not spy on staff members of the Senate committee charged with oversight US intelligence agencies, “has a lot of work to do,” before she can forgive him for lying to and spying on her committee.

Not really. The truth is Feinstein and her committee have a lot of work to do. If Brennan does not resign, or get forced out of his job, immediately, his work is done. That is to say, he will have succeeded in fatally wounding what’s left of the democratic, Constitutional government that traces its roots back to 1776.

The CIA spied on Congress and Brennan lied about it. How can Obama not immediately demand Brennan’s resignation? What are the implications of Brennan remaining director? Lindorff is asking the same questions:

Why is he still in office as CIA director? Why, indeed, is Clapper still his boss, as head of National Intelligence?

The only conceivable answer at this point has to be that the members of Congress, including the members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the President, (who remember, has the absolute authority to fire both men at will), are so thoroughly corrupt and compromised themselves that they dare not go after these Constitutional criminals, jailing them for their utter contempt of Congress, and having them for high treason.

Leaving Clapper, and especially Brennan, in office is the ultimate surrender by Congress of what little remains of democratic government in the US. It is the end of the Constitution. If secret government cannot be called to account, then the country is being run by a secret government whose power no longer has any limits.

Don’t expect Obama to do a goddamn thing. He’s too busy playing golf and increasing tenfold the watch lists for the out-of-control security state. This latter information comes from another leaker within that security state, leaked to The Intercept. From the link:

Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept.

Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database—a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments—more than 40 percent are described by the government as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That category—280,000 people—dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.

The documents, obtained from a source in the intelligence community, also reveal that the Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system. Since taking office, Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000—surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush.

Where will this end? If Congress is too corrupt and intimidated to provide effective oversight, and the executive office (Obama) is too corrupt and complicit in systemic abuses of our constitutional rights to fire the treasonous bastards destroying the last shreds of our democracy, where do we go?

Lindorff has an answer, and I don’t like it one bit:

There are ways to recover government of, by and for the people, but they are no longer likely to involve elections, since secret government has the power to subvert elections. If Brennan and Clapper can get away with what they have thus far gotten away with — not just thumbing their noses at Congress, but actually spying on its members with impunity — then the only way to take back popular government remains overthrowing those in power, dragging them before public tribunals, and administering people’s justice, whatever form that may ultimately take.

Sen. Feinstein is wrong. Brennan doesn’t “have a lot of work to do.”

We do.

by lizard

While Israel was doing this:

The UN has been dragged unwillingly into the war between Israel and Hamas after six of its schools were hit in two weeks and weapons caches found in three, violating the organisation’s neutrality.

The attacks on UN schools sheltering people fleeing bombardment have reverberated around the world, with unusually strong condemnation from Washington, and UN demands for an international inquiry into “gross violations of international law”. The most recent attack, on Sunday, was described by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, as “a moral outrage and a criminal act”.

James Conner was writing this:

America’s anti-Semites and loathers of Israel — and there are many, far, far too many — must have turned cartwheels of joy Friday when the New York Times reported that the fighting in Gaza is generating a serious outbreak of antisemitism in Europe.

So, too, turning cartwheels of joy must be the leaders of Hamas, for inciting fresh antisemitism in Europe and America is why Hamas — officially designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State on 8 September 1997 — provoked another deadly Israeli incursion in Gaza, hoping for massive civilian casualties that the world would blame on Israel.

Conner is desperately trying to redirect focus from Israeli actions to Hamas’ rhetoric, taking on the direct language of Hamas’ founding covenant. Read his whole post for context.

I’d say the first two paragraphs, though, make anything that comes after worthless. By leading with the anti-semite card, James Conner has signaled he is not capable of doing anything other than denigrate those with serious claims regarding a nation (that won’t define its borders) he apparently believes is not accountable because of the toddler-like narrative he offers: BUT HAMAS MADE ME DO IT!!! WAAAAA, I’M THE VICTIM!!

I came across an interesting article from April of this year in the Christian Monitor, titled Why Israel may need to rethink its assumptions on Palestinian unity. I’m going to highlight a lengthy section for context:

Seven years after the two main Palestinian political factions violently divorced, their leaders announced today a reconciliation deal that they say will pave the way for a new unity government and the first election in eight years.

Similar deals between Fatah and Hamas in 2011 and 2012 foundered over how the rivals would share power. But some say that this pact may represent more a serious commitment because both factions have been backed into a corner by popular discontent and outside pressures.

Israel certainly appears to be taking the deal seriously. Government officials criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, casting his decision as a rejection of peace with Israel as the two sides try to extend talks beyond next week’s deadline.

“[Abbas] must decide if he wants to make peace, and if so, with whom. It is impossible to make peace with Israel as well as with Hamas, a terrorist organization advocating for Israel’s destruction,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “Signing an agreement of a Fatah-Hamas unity government is tantamount to [calling off] negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Israel’s approach rests on two assumptions: that Mr. Abbas, who is also leader of Fatah, could enforce a peace deal without reconciling with Hamas; and that Hamas would never give up its stated intention to destroy Israel. Both may need rethinking.

Abbas, elected eight years ago, has consistently marketed himself as a committed peacemaker who will show Palestinians it is better to negotiate than resort to violence. But two rounds of negotiations later, the Israeli settler population in the West Bank has grown by more than 60,000 or 22 percent, and talks with Israel have failed to deliver a single meaningful benefit to Abbas’s constituency.

Israel wants to take more land, and has been aggressively doing so, despite the obvious dampening effect on the joke that’s been the peace process. I guess this is how Israel defines peace: we will take what we want, and you better be at peace with it!

Well, surprise surprise. Palestinians aren’t at peace with that, so votes were cast, Hamas’ role evolved, and now a full-blown massacre is ensuing after Netanyahu exploited the murder of three Israeli teenagers to turn the incremental genocide into a vigorous campaign of terror targeting anything that breathes in Gaza.

And if the intent of the siege isn’t clear, there are embassy cables released by wikileaks that spells it out very clearly. From Juan Cole:

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenpost has released a March, 2008, US embassy cable describing the Israeli blockade and siege of Occupied Gaza as an attempt to reduce the society to the lowest possible level of functioning without provoking a “humanitarian crisis” (presumably mass starvation).

“Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.”

And, with regard to taking money out of circulation in Gaza, a deflationary policy used as a tool of oppression:

“As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to econoffs on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge”

It seems to me the Israeli right-wingers missed their mark, since 55% of Palestinians in Gaza are food-insecure and 10% of children show signs of stunting from malnutrition. I’d call that a humanitarian crisis. What the despicable Israeli officials meant by their phrase, of course, is that a mass die-off should be avoided that would bring to bear world pressure to abandon this criminal policy. The Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal in international law and violates explicit United Nations Security Council resolutions. (Wasn’t defying UNSC resolutions given as a reason by the American Right for invading and overthrowing the Iraqi government?)

Not satisfied with the policy of strangulation, Israel has absolutely pummeled Gaza into a hell that will persist long after the bombs stop falling. At some point Israel will stop the hot part of this war, and then the real crisis will start unfolding. Critical infrastructure has been destroyed. Clean water and electricity will be difficult to provide.

And a generation of traumatized children will try to cope with the horrors they experienced.

How anyone can justify the actions of Israel is beyond me. Maybe it’s a product of age. Because regarding Israel, Millennials aren’t buying it like their parents have:

The latest Pew Research Center poll, which was published yesterday, shows that Americans aged 18 to 29 are pretty divided. When asked about “Israel’s response to the conflict with Hamas,” 31 percent said it’s been “about right.” Nearly as many, 29 percent, said that it’s “gone too far.” Tellingly, only 7 percent of young Americans believe it has “not gone far enough.”

By contrast, in the older age demographics (50-64 and 64+) 16 and 18 percent, respectively, believe that Israel’s use of force hasn’t gone far enough. Generation Xers are a bit closer to millennials’ views in some respects; 34 percent say Israel’s response has been about right, while 30 percent say it’s over the top. But again, 16 percent believe Israel’s military action should be more aggressive.

While there are multiple factors involved in this generational shift in public opinion, the most significant has to be the technological break-up of the information monopoly once held by the establishment. The information landscape is very different from the one Baby Boomers grew up in.

But don’t tell that to James Conner, who prefaced his cultural response to the Stafford poem I directed at him with this:

A wonderful song, wonderfully sung, in wonderful black-and-white, offered as a tribute to the bubble-wrapped, Hamasphilic, mainstreamphobic, half-wacked bloggers and conspiracy cultists who turned a once great progressive blog into a laughingstock of the internet. But let’s not give up on those birds just yet. Perhaps they can escape their twilight zones and return to daylight. With grace, amazing things can happen.

Without further comment, ladies and gentlemen, here are The Seekers singing A World of our Own (1968):

Hunting David Burgert

by lizard

Thanks to my parents snagging a camp spot at Apgar, I got to spend a wonderful Saturday afternoon with the extended family, swimming in Lake McDonald and listening to the drunk bikers who roared into loop D at 10:30pm get rained out by an impressive thunderstorm in the middle of the night as we lay dry and safe in our tent.

Sunday we drove back after taking a quick half-hike to Avalanche Lake. After unpacking I caught the last few minutes of David Burgert appearing on John Walsh’s show (not the doomed plagiarist Senatorial candidate) “The Hunt”. Here is a report from a local news station that a national program is once again featuring this infamous and still at large member of the Montana militia scene.

Relatively recent stories like this one from the Missoulian and now this national attention appears to be a strategy of trolling designed to illicit a reaction, if he’s not dead. For some background, this Indy piece by Jamie Rodgers is really good.

This case, for me, hits close. I had an unnerving interaction with David Burgert months before he disappeared. At the time I had no idea who he was. But I will always remember seeing his picture pop up on my twitter feed and slowly realizing who I had been in proximity to.

I communicated this to the necessary authorities at the time, but got no follow up.

What put law enforcement into contact with David Burgert on that fateful day was a 911 call from a concerned citizen reporting that someone had been sleeping in their car at a location just outside Lolo. It’s sad that simply sleeping in one’s car is considered by many as suspicious behavior. There are dozens of people that are engaging in this suspicious use of an automobile as a home because they have no other choice.

With the kind of criminal background Burgert had earned himself after spending several years in prison from gun charges, there wasn’t going to be much of a chance that Burgert, upon release, would be able to reintegrate back into society.

None of this is a justification for what Burgert did. He is obviously a mentally unstable, dangerous person unfit to mingle with us law-abiding citizens. The Hungry Horse News referred to him as the “missing Flathead terrorist” and maybe that’s what he is.

Does that mean if found law enforcement can dispense with due process and just execute him where he stands?

by lizard

In our brave new world of information, we form our sense of the world from the sources we choose, and it’s today’s gluttony of choice that lends a sort of comfort to brand loyalty, whether it’s the New York Times or Fox News.

The former news source was again taken to task by Greg Mitchell with this post, but I don’t want to again reiterate why it’s not crazily conspiratorial to remain skeptical with how US mainstream media reports on the world’s most current atrocities. Instead, a poem.

This poem comes from William Stafford, and is titled A Ritual to Read to Each Other. It can be found in a few different places, but I came across it in a grouping of Stafford poems selected by Robert Bly (Harpercollins). I don’t want to cite the title of that book here, because it’s the last line of the poem I hope you read (especially you, James).

*

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give – yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

“If Hamas continues fighting, then Israel has the right, need, and duty to destroy Hamas.” – James Conner, Flathead Memo

By JC

I find no joy in a tit-for-tat mudslinging blog war with other bloggers, but it is hard to let this one go. After labeling me a hysteric, a conspiracy sunflower sniffer, and a hater of our country, James Conner in his 4&20 eviction notice referenced his “good conscience” in shunning us.

How surprising it was then to read today Conner’s call for the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Hamas! I wonder how his conscience manages to keep up with that level of cognitive dissonance?

It’s really pretty simple: Hamas is a political party that leads the Palestinian Legislative Council. They represent 74 of the 132  seats on the council. They have millions of supporters. It has three wings: political; military; and social.

Calling for their destruction would be like… al Qaeda calling for the destruction of Democrats, and all that entails: Congress, the White House & Pentagon, all those who voted for and identify as Democrat; liberal charities and foundations. Maybe millions of innocent bystanders — civilians who think they are just going about everyday life trying to survive.

Or maybe Conner is just calling for a surgical strike of the Hamas military and political operations. Maybe assassinate political bureau chief Khaled Meshal. Good luck with all that — it’ll definitely ignite the Third Intifada.

Hamas represents the 1.82 million people in the Gaza strip. How many Palestinians does Conner propose we kill? And if we kill off Hamas and all of its supporters, who will be left in Gaza and who will tend to them? Or should Gaza cease to exist as an apartheid-like Palestinian refugee camp and just be another extension of the 1948 Nakba?

And who is to say who is ultimately responsible for the continuation of hostilities that go back over a century? Today’s Hamas rockets are a result of yesterday’s Israeli bombs, which were a result of last week’s Hamas kidnappings, which were the result of the week before’s Israeli…??? This crazy feedback-loop has to stop. And peace negotiations need to begin without any preconditions, or determining who gets the last bombing in.

Here’s a Wikipedia excerpt about the social welfare activities of Hamas:

“Hamas is popular among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, though it also has a following in the West Bank, and to a lesser extent in other Middle Eastern countries. Its popularity stems in part from its welfare wing providing social services to Palestinians in the occupied territories… Israeli scholar Reuven Paz estimates that 90% of Hamas activities revolve around “social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities”. Social services include running relief programs and funding schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues.

In particular, Hamas funded health services where people could receive free or inexpensive medical treatment. Hamas greatly contributed to the health sector, and facilitated hospital and physician services in the Palestinian territory… 

Hamas has funded education and built Islamic charities, libraries, mosques and education centers for women. They also built nurseries, kindergartens and supervised religious schools that provide free meals to children. When children attend their schools and mosques, parents are required to sign oaths of allegiance. Refugees, as well as those left without homes, are able to claim financial and technical assistance from Hamas…

Despite building materials needing to be smuggled into the territory, luxury beach resorts and tourist facilities operated by the interior ministry have been constructed by Hamas government–linked charities, including gardens, playgrounds, football fields, a zoo and restaurants aimed to provide employment and low cost entertainment for citizens.”

genocideI wouldn’t be so harsh about this if it weren’t for the news rolling around the internet today about the call for Palestinian genocide by an op-ed writer in the Times of Israel. While the publication quickly pulled the “When Genocide is Permissible” story and issued an apology, the message quickly got out and was reflected all over the internet. And it takes little for those with latent hair-trigger hatred of Palestinians to react and amplify an already explosive situation.

It doesn’t take much instigation by reactionary Zionists to quickly get the blogosphere all riled up, and get folks like Connor to quickly fall into the “blame Hamas and take them out at all costs if they don’t surrender” crowd. Here’s the language in the op-ed that has called the masses to rise up and push for the genocide of Hamas and Palestinians:

“We are at war with an enemy whose charter calls for the annihilation of our people. Nothing, then, can be considered disproportionate when we are fighting for our very right to live…

Hamas has stated forthrightly that it idealizes death as much as Israel celebrates life. What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely?

… I will conclude with a question for all the humanitarians out there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel. We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people. If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”

Apparently Conner has answered the “is genocide then permissible” question in the affirmative. I would answer in the negatory. And the op-ed author’s hypocrisy of calling for a people who he says “celebrates life” to commit genocide is mindless and ruthless.

 I for one am glad we’ve been cleansed from Conner’s Flathead Memo blogroll.

Gaza Ceasefire Collapses

by lizard

Just when those watching the horrors in Gaza were hoping a 72 hour ceasefire would give Palestinians a chance to pull bodies from the rubble and try to get much needed supplies, the ceasefire collapsed after just hours:

A hard-won internationally brokered truce between Israel and Palestinian militants collapsed within hours Friday after the Israeli military said one of its soldiers was missing amid heavy fighting in the southern Gaza Strip and may have been captured by Hamas fighters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped short of declaring the cease-fire dead, but accused Hamas of “flagrantly violating” what was to have been a three-day truce. Hamas in turn insisted it was Israel that had broken the cease-fire terms agreed to only hours earlier.

This situation highlights the fact the ceasefire wasn’t a legitimate ceasefire from the beginning. Israeli forces reserved the right to continue forward ground operations to neutralize tunnels, and it was during one of these operations that Palestinian militants killed two IDF soldiers and allegedly capture another.

I was watching CNN this morning and when the host wasn’t bashing the UN spokesperson for crying on camera (8 of his colleagues have been killed because Israel has no compunction against shelling UN shelters) the discussion touched on the lengths Israel goes to protect it’s soldiers. Bullshit. The reality is Israel would rather kill its own soldiers than allow them to remain captured. Don’t believe me? Then I suggest you read up on the Hannibal Directive:

Tonight, my Israeli source informed me that Sgt. Guy Levy, serving in the armored corps, was captured by Hamas fighters. He had been part of a joint engineering-armored-combat unit searching for tunnels. Troops entered a structure and discovered a tunnel. Suddenly, out of the shaft sprang two militants who dragged one of the soldiers into it. By return fire, one of the Palestinians was killed, while the other fled, presumably with the soldier.

This Israeli report, which was censored by the IDF, says only that the attempt to capture the soldier failed. It says nothing about his fate. The expectation of anyone reading it would be that the soldier was freed. But he was not. In order to prevent the success of the operation, the IDF killed him. Nana reports that the IDF fired a tank shell into the building, which is the same way another captured soldier was killed by the IDF during Cast Lead.

I would presume that once the militant fled into the tunnel with his prisoner that the IDF destroyed the tunnel and entombed those within it, including the soldier. I would also presume that the IDF knows he is dead because they retrieved his body.

To the uninitiated this will seem a terribly strange, uncivilized, even immoral act. But that’s where I learned something I’d never known before about the IDF. There is an unwritten secret regulation written by the IDF High Command, but nowhere codified in writing. Its existence is protected by military censorship. Journalists have rarely written about it. When they have it’s usually been in code or by inference.

It’s called the Hannibal Directive.

Nice way to treat your soldiers, Israel.

So the ceasefire is more than likely kaput, the pentagon has resupplied IDF forces with grenades and mortars and the atrocities against civilians will continue.

Palestinians don’t have consistent electricity, access to clean water and food, or any safe place to shelter. Not when Israel bombs hospitals and UN schools. It’s monstrous.

Israel is monstrous and must be stopped.

“Propaganda is a means to an end”

By JC

This week’s look into how the U.S. government — which, btw, I don’t “hate” but I am a dissident — and it’s handlers and tools use propaganda is a fairly simple and straightforward one.

Of course, it is related to how we are aiming to take down Russia, whether it is economically through sanctions, politically through isolation policies, overtly through the escalating chances of war (due to the drum beating of our Administration, necons, neolibs, and just plain old every day democrats and republicans) or covertly through the actions of the Deep State.

huffpo-putinIt all started with a simple headline a few days ago at the Huffington Post: “Russians Increasingly Alarmed About Putin’s Tactics” complete with a picture of a scowling Vladimir Putin. For those who just scan the headlines at online aggragater sites like the Huffington Post, you get the immediate impression that all is not well in Russia. That’s the first propaganda push: immediate impression.

Well, for whatever small fraction of people who want to read the article decide to click on the link, it goes not to a HuffPo story, but a direct link out to a NY Times article, entitled “As Sanctions Pile Up, Russians’ Alarm Grows Over Putin’s Tactics”. The HuffiPo headline writer got it sorta right, having to edit down the Grey Lady’s more informative headline.

But the HuffPo’s editorial staff didn’t bother to do any fact-checking, or look into the veracity of the Times story. The aggregator just did what they do: give a story further reach. This makes propaganda oh, so much easier!

But for the headline scanner, again we are led to believe that it is our “sanctions” that are resulting in Russians being unhappy with their dear leader and his “tactics.” Well, we know that our country’s sanctions are targeted at Putin’s allowing Crimea to rejoin Russia as part of their secession vote from Ukraine. Also, our country has been highly vocal with its accusations of Russia assisting Ukrainian federalists wanting some autonomy. The kicker is the President accusing Putin of being responsible for the shooting down of MH 17 just by being involved in the conflict.

Well, the reinforcement stage of propaganda has arrived when the headlines insinuate previously released propaganda, and it sucks you in. So if our headline scanner (me in this case) decides to read on, what can they discern from the article? First you have to get past another picture of Putin scowling with the caption suggesting that people aren’t happy with Putin flipping the rest of the world (read “G-6″) the bird for their sanctions.

times-putin-jc Continue Reading »

by lizard

A few weeks ago I had a really interesting conversation with my dad. Like any healthy teenager, I rebelled against everything I thought he stood for. I held a grudge for years at being dragged from my friends in Seattle to grow up in midwest suburbia. Dad moved us to Kansas for a job at Sprint, where he climbed the corporate ladder to provide his family with a comfortable life, which teenage assholes like myself can pretend to reject but still benefit from immensely nonetheless.

So I rebelled against suburbia and conformity and corporate America blah blah blah.

Well, it turns out my dad was almost like a whistleblower, but his warnings up the chain of corporate command weren’t heeded, and things went south. How south? Here’s an article from the Washington Post (2008):

Sprint Nextel yesterday reported a $29.45 billion fourth-quarter loss and said legions of subscribers continue to abandon its service, many because they can’t pay their bills.

The nation’s third-largest wireless carrier last year courted people with poor credit to boost its number of subscribers. Now the company is feeling the pain disproportionately as the economy weakens and consumers default on their debts.

Essentially what Sprint did was target higher-risk consumers with sign-up gimmicks to prime short-term sales for Wall Street. If you think this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. This is the same short-sighted greed that fed the housing bubble and now, the auto-loan bubble:

Thanks largely to the U.S. Federal Reserve, Jeffrey Nelson was able to put up a shotgun as down payment on a car.

Money was tight last year for the school-bus driver and neighborhood constable in Jasper, Alabama, a beaten-down town of 14,000 people. One car had already been repossessed. Medical bills were piling up.

And still, though Nelson’s credit history was an unhappy one, local car dealer Maloy Chrysler Dodge Jeep had no problem arranging a $10,294 loan from Wall Street-backed subprime lender Exeter Finance so Nelson and his wife could buy a charcoal gray 2007 Suzuki Grand Vitara.

All the Nelsons had to do was cover the $1,000 down payment. For most of that amount, Maloy accepted Jeffrey’s 12-gauge Mossberg & Sons shotgun, valued at about $700 online.

How to react to this problem? Some people think better regulation of lenders might help. Some people would like to just blame the victims of predatory lending for the problem.

Regardless, these risky schemes driven by greed always seem to blow up. Maybe, if there were significant consequences imposed for the architects of these schemes, they would stop building them.

But there aren’t. So they do.

by lizard

There’s an interesting conspiracy theory being put forth by Republicans regarding impeachment. Readers of this defiled political space know I can’t resist a good conspiracy, so here’s the gist (Media Matters):

Right-wing media and Republicans are blaming Democrats and President Obama for allegedly “ginning up” the issue of impeachment for political benefit, but that Pandora’s Box was opened by conservatives themselves, who have been demanding impeachment since Obama first took office.

In an interview with conspiracy website WND (which has its own “Impeachment Store”), Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) told conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi that President Obama “wants us to impeach him now” because “his senior advisors believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote.”

Stockman’s proclamation that the president is “begging to be impeached” was quickly trumpeted as the top story on the Drudge Report and Fox Nation, and Stockman isn’t the only one trying to pin the increase in impeachment discussion on Democrats. While refusing to answer whether impeachment is off the table for House Republicans, incoming House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) claimed “this might be the first White House in History that’s trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president.”

So now that it’s a conspiracy theory to pin on Republicans, Democrats can focus on that, and not the reality that there actually are grounds for impeaching this president.

To start us off, let’s take a look at the sad lament of a former Clinton aide, Bill Curry, who recently proclaimed that the Democratic Party has lost its soul. I guess a guy who had a front-row seat for what Clinton started would know. Here are some of his thoughts on populism:

One reason we know voters will embrace populism is that they already have. It’s what they thought they were getting with Obama. In 2008 Obama said he’d bail out homeowners, not just banks. He vowed to fight for a public option, raise the minimum wage and clean up Washington. He called whistle-blowers heroes and said he’d bar lobbyists from his staff. He was critical of drones and wary of the use of force to advance American interests. He spoke eloquently of the threats posed to individual privacy by a runaway national security state.

He turned out to be something else altogether. To blame Republicans ignores a glaring truth: Obama’s record is worst where they had little or no role to play. It wasn’t Republicans who prosecuted all those whistle-blowers and hired all those lobbyists; who authorized drone strikes or kept the NSA chugging along; who reneged on the public option, the minimum wage and aid to homeowners. It wasn’t even Republicans who turned a blind eye to Wall Street corruption and excessive executive compensation. It was Obama.

A populist revolt among Democrats is unlikely absent their reappraisal of Obama, which itself seems unlikely. Not since Robert Kennedy have Democrats been so personally invested in a public figure. Liberals fell hardest so it’s especially hard for them to admit he’s just not that into them.

A microcosm of this stubborn liberal buy-in can be found in the Walsh campaign. Calls for Walsh to step down, IMHO, will prove futile and Democrats will be stuck with a Bush doctrine plagiarist until the bitter end. Daines will have enough of the slick veneer corporate loot buys in 30 second niblets to (sadly) convince the low percentage of registered voters who even bother to vote anymore that he somehow represents their interests.

Of course, I could be wrong. I’m sure our local media is salivating for a resignation and new Democrat appointment for Montana’s Senatorial hot seat. After all, there are national implications driving this political drama. Could it be a media storm someone like Denise Juneau could ride, or, at the very least, lose with a bit more dignity in November? What say you Montana Democrats? Do you have the stomach for trying to cram Walsh’s deceitful careerism down your base’s throats?

Getting back on track from that local tangent, a guest post at Zerohedge offers a compelling argument for impeaching Obama now—tomorrow’s tyrant. I’m going to skip over the partisan speculation that precedes this key consideration:

There is a deeper strategic consideration that should concern citizens and politicians. This issue should transcend parochial political interest and political advantage consideration. Not addressing impeachment threatens what is left of the Rule of Law and the Constitution. Not addressing impeachment ensures greater tyranny in the future.

The current president makes Richard Nixon look like a paragon of truth, integrity and honor in comparison. If Obama doesn’t qualify for impeachment, then nobody ever again will.

It is difficult to imagine worse violations of the Constitution, separation of powers and general dishonor of the office than this president has committed. Yet we assuredly will see worse by successors. Impeachment is necessary in order to preserve what little structure the Founders provided. A line in the sand must be drawn that says to successors where they dare not go. Without impeachment Obama’s acts serve as precedents. Future presidents will have immunity to repeat them and add their own variations and enhancements that further stretch the boundaries. The absence of action has the unintended effect of further defining presidential deviancy downward.

Democrats, by failing to hold the executive office accountable for its own enhancements on what Bush accomplished, will be complicit in whatever future mutation of rule by executive decree occurs.

I purposely didn’t say “Obama” in the previous sentence because it really is about the capacity of the office and not the whims of the person holding that office.

That said, there is no way impeachment proceedings against Barack Hussein Obama wouldn’t be, in some capacity, depicted as a political lynching.

Sad how a political race umbrella ensures tomorrow’s tyrant will have today’s established precedent to build on.

Cognitive Casualties

by lizard

When James Conner denounced 4&20 Blackbirds, he included our propensity (JC and myself) for mistrusting mainstream news sources as a contributing factor to our anti-Americanism:

They don’t trust the mainstream media, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Guardian. They seem to see a conspiracy behind every sunflower. They hate the United States and its government with a black bile that corrodes their judgment.

For me, there absolutely has been a corrosion of trust in mainstream news sources. The complicity of the New York Times in the run up to the invasion of Iraq is the worst example of media manipulation, but there are lots of others, which I will get to in a second.

(On edit, the NYT decision to spike the Bush warrantless wiretapping story until AFTER the 2004 election is also way up there.)

First, though, I can’t help highlighting a little blurb from a post at Intelligent Discontent where the self-admitted media scold, Don Pogreba, laments about local political coverage from the Great Falls Tribune:

I got into blogging just over nine years ago as a bit of a media scold. I was troubled that the Montana press didn’t seem to cover stories that needed to be covered and that often the stories took a predictable approach of letting both sides (Democrat and Republican) speak with equal authority, even when one side was clearly not telling the truth. Voices outside of the two parties were largely marginalized.

What a perfect segue to the actual meat of this post: the marginalization of voices outside the mainstream media’s lock-step fealty to Israel (and whatever atrocity IDF soldiers are in the midst of committing).

First up, Max Blumenthal takes a look at how MSNBC responded to criticism from within the network:

MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal’s on-air protest of the network’s slanted coverage of Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip has brought media suppression of the Israel-Palestine debate into sharp focus. Punished for her act of dissent with the cancellation of all future appearances and the termination of her contract, Jebreal spoke to me about what prompted her to speak out and why MSNBC was presenting such a distorted view of the crisis.

“I couldn’t stay silent after seeing the amount of airtime given to Israeli politicians versus Palestinians,” Jebreal told me. “They say we are balanced but their idea of balance is 90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians. This kind of media is what leads to the failing policies that we see in Gaza.”

She continued, “We as journalists are there to afflict the comfortable and who is comfortable in this case? Who is really endangering both sides and harming American interests in the region? It’s those enforcing the status quo of the siege of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.”

NBC had another problem with a reporter actually in Gaza because he, you know, REPORTED what he saw, which was 4 kids on the beach playing soccer get blown up. NBC response? Get him out of there:

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).

The good news here is that NBC reversed its decision after a healthy heaping of social media scorn for its clearly political move and subsequent deceit that it was for “security reasons”.

And how about more good news: mainstream media sources seem to be having more difficulties peddling propaganda, and that, I think, is because members of non-mainstream sources are getting more traction when they point out obvious bias and manipulation. Here is a post from writer Greg Mitchell, for example, calling out the New York Times:

NYT tonight finally changes headline on story it posted this morning– which declared, “Gazans and Israelis Tally Damage.” I pointed out here (see below) and via Twitter that the story did not, or could not, point to a single example of Israel damage (beyond it reputation and moral standing, perhaps). Instead, it had Israelis going to the beach (“It’s fun”), holding bar-b-qs and visiting soldiers. Perhaps feeling shame, the paper has finally changed the headline. It also added reference to 21 Gazans in one family killed by Israeli shelling last night–but as always reporter allows Israel flack to claim it must have been because of Hamas fire from nearby.

The way online stories are sometimes subtly changed can be hard to catch. But it happens. In the case of Mitchell helping to coerce the change of a headline, the change made the piece less biased. In this example, caught by b at Moon of Alabama, the change to the NBC article expunged the eyes of the reporter. I will re-quote the two versions with b’s bold emphasis included (using red instead of b’s bold). Oh, and I should mention the article is about strikes near Gaza’s Shifa hospital.

Take one:

Israeli strikes hit within yards of Gaza’s main hospital as well as at a refugee camp on Monday, leaving at least 30 dead and wounded.

The explosion near Shifa Hospital around 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET) caused some damage to the outpatient clinic, according to witnesses including an NBC News crew on the ground in the area. There was no immediate confirmation of deaths or injuries.

Another strike occurred at the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. At least 30 dead and wounded were brought to Shifa Hospital in ambulances, civilian cars and on motorcycles. A NBC News team in the area said the strikes were in “close succession.”

The Israel Defense Forces told Haaretz that a “preliminary investigation has found the Israeli army did not fire at the Shifa Hospital, and the fire is believed to have been Hamas.” The IDF could not immediately be reached to clarify that account on Monday. However, a NBC News journalist witnessed the attack on the hospital and said it had been fired by an Israeli drone.

Take two:

Missiles or rockets struck within yards of Gaza’s main hospital and a nearby refugee camp Monday, leaving at least 30 dead and wounded.

The Israeli military denied reports its forces were responsible for the strikes, saying they were the result of rockets misfired by Palestinian militants.

The explosion near Shifa Hospital around 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET) caused some damage to the outpatient clinic, according to witnesses including an NBC News crew on the ground in the area. There was no immediate confirmation of deaths or injuries.

Another strike occurred at the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. A Palestinian health official says at least 10 people, including children, were killed in Monday’s strikes. An NBC News team in the area said the strikes were in “close succession.”

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that failed rocket launches were to blame.

“A short while ago Al-Shifa hospital was struck by a failed rocket attack launched by Gaza terror organizations. A barrage of three rockets that were aimed towards Israel, struck the hospital. At the time of the incident there was no Israeli military activity in the area surrounding the hospital whatsoever. “

Early reports from the ground said an Israeli drone was responsible for the attack.

The wars and slaughters being waged are being told to us through a parallel war, the information war. The palpable disgust expressed by James Conner that JC and I have created some nefarious alternative reality shows me what a cognitive casualty looks like.

Don’t be a cognitive casualty of the information war. Think possibility, not blind patriotism.

by lizard

Ed Kemmick has a must read on the Billings homeless situation at Last Best News, titled Prairie Lights: Let’s not give up on downtown Billings. The perspective of the piece is incredibly important, considering the stabbing death of a photographer, Michael Sample, by a person who IS NOT HOMELESS has resulted in Billings scrambling to convene a summit on homelessness this October. From the article:

You want to talk about problems with transients on Montana Avenue? Talk to Mike Schaer.

When he moved his computer business to the avenue 33 years ago, there were vacant buildings all along Montana, and “the transients were really all over the place.”

They could buy cheap booze at the Empire Bar, the Rainbow Bar and Lobby Liquor, which was on First Avenue North and even had a walk-up window. And that’s not all.

“There were hookers up and down the street, flagging down cars,” Schaer said.

There has recently been a sense of alarm over the number of transients on the streets of downtown Billings. Business owners vented their frustrations at a public forum and city officials met with the Mayor’s Committee on Homelessness to talk about some solutions.

All well and good, Schaer said, but “it’s a manageable problem. And compared to what it was, it’s no problem at all.”

Interesting historical context to consider from a business owner who has been around for 3 decades. Not only was the “transient problem” worse, so was the downtown infrastructure. And here lies the rub.

Revitalizing downtowns is a national trend. Here is Forbes looking into the demographics fueling investment in downtown business districts:

One of the main factors businesses consider when deciding on where to relocate or expand is the available pool of college-educated workers. And that has cities competing for college-educated young adults. “The American population, contrary to popular opinion, is not very mobile, but there is one very significant exception, what we call ‘the young and the restless,’” explains Lee Fisher, president of CEOs for Cities, a national not-for-profit organization that helps U.S. cities map out economic growth.

And there’s one place this desired demographic, college-educated professionals between the ages of 25 and 34, tends to want to live: tight-knit urban neighborhoods that are close to work and have lots of entertainment and shopping options within an easy walk. In fact this demographic’s population grew 26% from 2000 to 2010 in major cities’ downtowns, or twice as fast as it did in the those cities’ overall metro areas, according to a CEOs for Cities report based on U.S. Census data. That is one of the reasons city planners have been plowing money and resources into revitalizing their core business districts.

“The cities that capture the mobile, college-educated ‘young and restless’ are the ones who are most likely to revitalize their downtowns and accelerate economic progress in their cities,” says Fisher.

Take Denver. Civic and business leaders began work on the city’s Lower Downtown neighborhood in 1989 with the issuance of $240 million in bonds. Today LoDo is a trendy ‘hood of over 100 restored Victorian warehouses and buildings filled with art galleries, boutiques, local eateries and nightclubs. Now Denver is in the midst of a 20-year, seven-mega project plan to expand the revitalization efforts through the rest of the downtown district.

Apparently, like Missoula (which now has 3 planned micro-distilleries eyeing downtown), distillers are moving into reclaimed downtown spaces. From the same link:

Other cities are getting creative with their efforts. Over the past decade, Louisville, Ky., converted much of its subsidized housing downtown to market-rate real estate, and it expanded retail offerings. Now it’s adding a twist. In 2011, the mayor unveiled a public-private initiative to restore downtown Louisville’s Whiskey Row. Buildings were rescued from scheduled demolition by an investor group for promising, with the help of government aid, to preserve the facades of the area’s cast-iron buildings. Two years later renovations are under way, and the buildings are expected to house bourbon-themed restaurants and nightlife spots, adding to the success of nearby projects like the mixed-use Whiskey Row Lofts.

“Bourbon is an industry that is growing in Louisville, especially downtown,” says Alan DeLisle, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation. “Distillers are reinvesting downtown where they were once located off the river and we are building visitor centers and a streetscape plan that tells the story of the industry.” Among the bourbon businesses coming back to the area: Mitcher’s Distillery, Heaven Hill and whiskey giant Jim Beam.

So what are some of the problems associated with revitalizing downtown spaces? In Birmingham, it’s the PERCEPTION of crime. Again, from the same link:

In Birmingham, Ala., the number of residents downtown has increased 32% since 2000, with 737 planned units in the construction pipeline. A stadium for the minor league baseball team the Birmingham Barons has been built at Railroad Park, a green space created on a former industrial site next to a rail corridor. Office space absorption was positive in 2012, with net 126,000 square feet leased out, and downtown employment density relative to the southern city’s size is comparable to Philadelphia’s business district, local economists are quick to point out.

Yet, the city is still struggling to overcome a reputation for crime. “Despite the positive there are still people who have a negative view about downtown, particularly around the perception of crime,” sighs David Fleming, chief executive of REV Birmingham, a local economic development organization. “But if you look at the statistics, the chance of being a victim of crime in the central business district is actually less likely than in the suburbs.”

Combine the fear of crime with another national trend—that of criminalizing homelessness—and you can see where perceptions are being bolstered by the passing of more laws in more American cities criminalizing homelessness. This month a report came out tracking this trend (read the actual report here). From the first link:

A new report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (“Law Center”), No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, details a startling rise in laws criminalizing homelessness across America – more and more U.S. cities are criminally punishing homeless people for engaging in necessary, life-sustaining activity in public places, even when they have no other options. “There is a severe shortage of affordable housing and a lack of emergency shelter options in our communities, leaving homeless people with no choice but to perform basic acts of survival in public spaces,” stated Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the Law Center. “Despite a lack of any available alternatives, more cities are choosing to turn the necessary conduct of homeless people into criminal activity. Such laws threaten the human and constitutional rights of homeless people, impose unnecessary costs on cities, and do nothing to solve the problems they purport to address.”

The number of laws restricting or prohibiting the basic human activities of homeless people has significantly increased since 2011, according to the Law Center’s survey of 187 cities across the country. Over half of the surveyed cities have laws restricting or prohibiting sitting or lying down in public, representing a 43% increase since 2011. Other criminalization laws have become even more prevalent. Laws prohibiting living in vehicles have increased by a dramatic 119% since 2011.

Now, let’s go back to Kemmick’s piece for an alternative approach to criminalizing homelessness. Here is another downtown Billings business talking about their experience running a business downtown, echoing the sentiment that it’s not the crisis some people think it is:

I heard similar sentiments from Clark and Rachel Marten and their son Rudi. They moved their business — Clark Marten Photography — from Columbus to Montana Avenue last summer.

Clark and Rachel had plans to turn the successful business over to their son. He was interested, but he wanted to move the business to Billings.

“That’s where I wanted to live and where most of my clients live,” Rudi said. He also pushed for the downtown location. They are at 2606 Montana Ave., next door to the St. Vincent de Paul charity office, one of the biggest downtown gathering spots for transients, homeless people and poor families.

The Martens have gotten to know many of the street people by name, and they’ve never had a problem. Their beautifully renovated photography business, 10,000 square feet of ground-level and basement space, has never been damaged or vandalized.

They do have a couple of large planters full of flowers out front. Some people thought they were crazy to imagine they wouldn’t be vandalized or stolen. One planter was pushed over one night, but the Martens suspect it was someone leaving a neighborhood bar, not the local transients.

In an odd way, many of the street people seem to respect what they’re doing on the avenue, Clark said, and they’ll sleep in front of St. Vincent de Paul or the building next door, but not in front of his business.

The reason Ed Kemmick’s piece is so important is because, in the battle of perceptions, the noise of those who depict homelessness as a dangerous impediment to downtown gentrification usually drowns out the sounds of fact and reason. Newspapers like the Missoulian offer sensationalist reporting of anything bad that happens while ignoring or downplaying solutions, like the housing first model. This opens the space for further fear-mongering, like what we saw from “progressive” city councilor, Caitlin Copple, who offered the example of a pregnant woman being chased down a sidewalk as justification for her attempt to introduce a ban on sitting downtown between 6am-11pm.

The targets of this fear-mongering aren’t a problem for us to solve, they are people that we should be striving to better understand.

Toward that end, a local film maker, Jon Baker, is embarking on a journey to find his homeless father. He has already begun filming, and his kickstarter campaign is trying to raise 5,000 dollars to cover his costs. With 13 days left, he’s only raised $130 dollars so far.

Jon’s perspective is important. The lens of a son searching for his homeless father is not one traditional media is interested in telling. Please donate to his kickstarter campaign if you can.

by lizard

As Israel bombs schools and hospitals, pushing the death toll over 1,000, a critical piece of information was disclosed regarding the 3 Israeli teens—Hamas was NOT responsible:

The Israeli Police Foreign Press Spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, appears to have falsified the Israeli government’s claim that Hamas was responsible for the killing of three Israeli settler teens in June, by saying responsibility lies with a lone cell that operated without the complicity of Hamas’ leadership.

The kidnapping and subsequent killing of three Israeli settler teens last month is considered to be a flashpoint for the escalated violence in Gaza — that as of day 19 of the conflict has left 926 Palestinians, mostly civilians, dead.

At the time Israeli authorities placed the blame squarely on Hamas, with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu saying “They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals in human form. Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay.”

Netanyahu knew this within days of the abduction, but instead of being forthright, he put a gag order on reporters and exploited the situation to maximize incitement toward war. I wonder if this had anything to do with Netanyahu’s deceitful path to war:

After seven years of a bitter and at times lethalrivalry between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, a historic Palestinian unity government has been sworn in , ending years of division.

The signing ceremony, which seems likely to complicate relations with the Palestinian Authority’s international aid donors in Europe and the US and increase tensions with Israel, was broadcast live in Gaza and the West Bank.

Despite the US secretary of state, John Kerry, telephoning the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to express “concern about Hamas’s role in any such government” ahead of the ceremony, the US said on Monday night that it would work with the new government but that it would be “watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles that President Abbas reiterated today”, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Israel, which suspended peace negotiations in April when a surprise reconciliation deal was signed opening the way to the appointment of the new government, reacted angrily to the deal. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, chairing a security cabinet following the signing, told ministers: “Today, Abu Mazen [as President Mahmoud Abbas is known] said yes to terrorism and no to peace.”

Israel must be stopped. Boycott, divest, sanction.

by lizard

Two stories related to guns caught my attention today. First there’s the 80 year old man who shot a woman in the back after her and an accomplice tried burglarizing his home:

Police said Thursday they’re deciding whether to arrest an 80-year-old man who shot a fleeing, unarmed burglar despite her telling him she was pregnant, but they have arrested the woman’s accomplice on suspicion of murder for taking part in a crime that led to her death.

The homeowner, Tom Greer, was cooperating with investigators, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said at a news conference. But the chief wouldn’t say whether charges will be recommended when they turn over their case to prosecutors Friday.

He said Andrea Miller, 28, was not visibly pregnant but an autopsy would provide the answer.

Greer told KNBC-TV he shot Miller twice in the back as she ran away.

“She says, ‘Don’t shoot me, I’m pregnant – I’m going to have a baby,’ and I shot her anyway,” Greer said in the interview Wednesday.

The other story is sure to make the guns everywhere crowd ecstatic because it involves a mentally ill man who had his gun rampage cut short by a psychiatrist who had a concealed gun permit and used his weapon to stop the man before he could kill more people:

The patient who opened fire on a caseworker and psychiatrist at a unit of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital intended to kill the doctor and possibly others – and might have succeeded if the psychiatrist had not pulled his own gun, authorities said Friday.

Richard Plotts was carrying a loaded revolver and 39 bullets when he arrived for his appointment Thursday afternoon, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said. Plotts got off enough shots to kill caseworker Theresa Hunt and wound psychiatrist Lee Silverman before the doctor drew his own weapon and shot Plotts three times.

“If Dr. Silverman did not have the firearm and did not utilize the firearm, he’d be dead today,” Whelan said. “And other people would be dead.”

Discuss.

By JC

And for today’s edition of “How the Propaganda Rolls”, we bring you stories from the Department of Defense and the Department of State, a snippet from the Ukrainian News Agency, and a link to Congress. It seems that our reliance on information from sources outside the fishbowl here at 4&20 have kicked up a hornet’s nest, so we’ll keep it mainstream today. Well, when one reads between the lines, it even becomes easy to see how the puppet masters work their magic through normal channels.

First off, we have Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, and quoted at the U.S. Defense Department’s DoD News website:

Russia’s decision to fire artillery from within Russia onto Ukrainian military positions transforms the security environment throughout Eastern Europe, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.

“You’ve got a Russian government that has made the conscious decision to use its military force inside of another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives — first time, I think, probably, since 1939 or so that that’s been the case,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said at the Aspen Security Forum.

One just needs to read all the headlines generated by the U.S. government’s public statements, and they’d come to the conclusion that Russia decided to just dispense with letting it’s soldiers in Ukraine fight the battle. They might as well just do it in plain sight themselves. Propaganda accomplished.

But one just needs to jump over to John Kerry’s U.S. State Department’s website, and look at yesterday’s daily briefing — which was held while all of the propaganda was being issued, and the MSM duly reporting it, and the American public slopping it up. Here’s the State Department’s spokesperson starting off with an accusation: “They’re firing artillery from within Russia” and ending up — as the result of some tough questioning — admitting that they “don’t have definitive information about how those Ukrainian jets were brought down.”  Continue Reading »

by lizard

If readers of this blog want to check out Intelligent Discontent, or Montana Cowgirl, or the Flathead Memo, they can simply click the link on the blog roll. But if you want to do the same from any of the three mentioned sites, you can’t because links to this blog have been purposely removed by the respective site moderators.

James Conner at the Flathead Memo was the latest, and he offers his reasoning with this post:

Well, I’ve had it with 4and20blackbirds. It used to be Missoula’s best blog, and one of Montana’s best. But the people who made it the best are no longer blogging on a regular basis — maybe not even blogging on an irregular basis — and the prime replacement, William Skink, who writes under the nom de plume Lizard, while prolific, and passionate about his beliefs, doesn’t begin to fill their shoes.

For me, the last straw is the set of posts and comments on the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the separatist held Ukrainian areas that abut Russia. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Boeing 777 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile, very little to no reasonable doubt that the launch button was pushed by the separatists, possible with Russian help, and every reason to believe that the shootdown was an accident (but still a war crime).

Lizard and JC disagree, which is their right — and a right that I’ll defend. But their arguments verge on hysteria. They don’t trust the mainstream media, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Guardian. They seem to see a conspiracy behind every sunflower. They hate the United States and its government with a black bile that corrodes their judgment.

Black bile? Sounds like a medical condition. I wonder if there is some kind of treatment available to allow my hatred of America and distrust of mainstream media to transform into the noble bloom of patriotism I am currently deprived of. Something like this:

Here is how James Conner ends his piece justifying his expulsion:

4and20blackbirds has become an alternate reality blog, a realm of conspiracy theories and rants by angry leftists driven by hatred of their nation and soured on humanity. Once an oasis of fact and reason, it’s now a well poisoned by fury and anti-Americanism. I can no longer in good conscience keep it on Flathead Memo’s blogroll.

I’m wondering, should I be listening for the sound of a drone overhead? James Conner is essentially calling JC and myself traitors, and we know what the Obama regime does to traitors. If they are whistleblower traitors, it’s prison. If they are American-born Muslim clerics preaching anti-Americanism, then it’s a drone strike. And if you’re a teenage child of an American-born Muslim cleric preaching anti-Americanism, that’s also punishable by death without due process.

It’s really unfortunate that otherwise smart, perceptive people can’t accept the reality of what is happening in this country. The slide toward fascism is paved by “good” Americans who label our sociopath leaders as patriots and critics like myself as America-hating traitors.

So take us off your blog roll, James. Hopefully that protects your conscience from the poisonous black bile we spew.

by lizard

The political firestorm over John Walsh’s plagiarism has focused primarily on how it will impact his campaign. No surprise there. The Walsh/Daines race is one of a handful of closely watched political contests that will impact the balance of power in the Senate.

After watching the comments roll in on today’s earlier post (somewhat hastily put up) one particular comment from feralcatoffreedom stood out:

OK, so this guy has blundered his way through his career with help from friends with varying excuses for the mistakes. So far that’s just a normal politician. We rarely get the cream of the crop choosing politics as a career. We just don’t. We have to get over the idea that the best and brightest choose to serve. But what I find more troubling about this story is what he plagiarized. Did you read that essay? The “scholars” are as obtuse and stultifying cliched as any of our foreign policy “experts”.
This is what he copied??

““Democracy promoters need to engage as much as possible in a dialogue with a wide cross section of influential elites: mainstream academics, journalists, moderate Islamists, and members of the professional associations who play a political role in some Arab countries, rather than only the narrow world of westernized democracy and human rights advocates.”

Huh? and Duh! This is what is really troublesome. Four “scholars” made up this drivel. This is why we are blundering our way in the Middle East and Ukraine and why ordinary travelers are not safe in airplanes anymore. These are crazy times!

I finally got a little time today to start looking at the actual hodge-podge of lifted language John Walsh used to advance his career seven years ago, and while I haven’t yet read the entirety of the 14 page paper, just the first paragraph was enough for me (you can read the paper yourself here):

When George W. Bush took office in January 2001, few expected that promoting democracy around the world would become a major issue in his presidency. During 2001, the Bush administration did not even address the issue of promoting civil societies, rule of law, free elections and open political processes as major issues of their agenda. During the 2000 presidential campaign Bush and his advisors made it clear that they favored great-power realism over idealistic notions such as nation building or democracy building. Four years later President Bush used his second inaugural speech to define an expansive new mission for American foreign policy based on promoting freedom around the world, it was clear that the president’s interest in democracy was more than a passing fancy.

If you’re thinking it sorta sounds like John Walsh is pimping the Bush Doctrine four years after the disastrous occupation of Iraq, you’d be right. And that timing is important, because Walsh is pining for Iraq to be the shining beacon of democracy for the Middle East right when an act of democracy set in motion the Israeli atrocities happening now. Here’s another excerpt from the junk Walsh passed off as an “academic” paper for the War College (“This project” refers to the occupation of Iraq):

This project will provide a valid argument that the United States must continue to pursue democracy in the Middle East as a key component of the National Security Strategy of the United States of America beyond January 20, 2009 when President Bush leaves office. Democracy is not an unalloyed good and the United States should not blindly attempt to spread democracy to the exclusion of all other goals, but the belief is that U.S. and global interests would be advanced if the world contained more democracies. If the Bush doctrine is successful in laying the foundation for democracy in the region and elsewhere around the world, the spread of democracy in the Middle East will have to remain American policy beyond January 20, 2009. Patience is a must and if we have any hope of successfully promoting freedom as the alternative to tyranny and despair we must be patient.

One problem with this Middle East democracy thing: Hamas.

Elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the legislature of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) were held on 25 January 2006. The result was a victory for Hamas, who won with 74 seats of the 132 seats, whilst the ruling Fatah won just 45. In terms of votes received, Hamas took 44.45% of the vote, whilst Fatah received 41.43%[1] and of the Electoral Districts, Hamas party candidates received 41.73% and Fatah party candidates received 36.96%.

Since the election of Hamas, Israel has collectively punished the captive Palestinian population. I guess Democracy doesn’t work when these terrorists choose the wrong political faction. Same thing happened in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood.

I don’t see how any self-respecting Montana Democrat can read the drivel Walsh cobbled together and still support the man for higher office.

John Walsh should resign.

by lizard

John Walsh’s campaign to retain the senate seat gifted to him by Governor Bullock has hit a major snag, and that snag is plagiarism:

Senator John Walsh of Montana took most of a 2007 final paper required for his master’s degree from the United States Army War College from other sources without proper attribution. Mr. Walsh copies an entire page nearly word-for-word from a Harvard paper, and each of his six conclusions is copied from a document from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace without attribution.

Rachel Maddow did a piece on this, associating Walsh’s new political problem with Biden’s plagiarism, which derailed his presidential bid, and Rand Paul’s serial plagiarist tendencies.

There is no question as to the plagiarism. Walsh is guilty. The question is, will Montana voters buy the reasoning that Walsh is not an academic, the plagiarism was unintentional and…PTSD:

Walsh, 53, an Iraq War veteran and former adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, told the Missoulian State Bureau Wednesday that he’d made an “unintentional mistake” on the paper and that “a few mistakes in a term paper should (not) define my career.”

“My record is defined by my leadership in the National Guard,” he said. “I excelled on the battlefield. I’m not necessarily an academic. The citations were not done correctly, and I take full responsibility for the paper that I wrote.”

Walsh also said that he “was going through a lot of things” when he attended the War College, such as trying to “reintegrate” himself back into his family, country and job after serving in Iraq. Walsh served 11 months in Iraq, returning in late 2005.

He told The Associated Press he was on medication and being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder when he wrote the paper almost two years after returning from Iraq. He said he is still taking antidepressant medication.

That last part should raise some eyebrows. Is Walsh clinically depressed? What kind of antidepressant medication is he still taking? Do voters have a right to know the mental health status of a candidate?

Walsh’s reasoning for committing this academic offense may have just created new problems for his campaign. Some bloggers are going to be very busy with damage control on this one.

by lizard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what is the point?

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

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

By JC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idiots.

Sea Blue Sea

by lizard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And by then it will be too late.

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