Archive for July, 2012

by lizard

The media trial of James Holmes began the second we learned his name. After the name we got a still shot of his face, and after that, his first appearance in court, where he acted either chemically restrained or maybe just plain crazy.

Unfortunately it looks like a media trial may be all we can expect, considering the formal judicial process has been sealed tighter than Mitt Romney’s tax history. This from the Denver Post editorial:

In the hours after the horrific Aurora theater shootings, law enforcement authorities were reasonably frank in telling the public what had happened.

All that came to a screeching halt when the criminal case for the alleged shooter hit the court system.
The case is proceeding under such sweeping secrecy rules that the public cannot even see the case docket, which is akin to a table of contents. The orders have gone far beyond the typical “gag order.”

That is why The Denver Post and other media outlets filed a motion Friday asking the judge in the case to reconsider the information lockdown and allow public inspection of routine court documents.

The secrecy in the case has been disturbing. Mandating that the University of Colorado, for instance, not release any records regarding the shooting suspect, James Eagan Holmes, is a step too far and one that appears unprecedented.

This quick move by the courts to lock this case up is an obvious red flag. When I finally got some time to go digging, the online terrain quickly began looking like a rabbit hole into all kinds of tangential weirdness.

For example, this reporting by ABC news features an 18 year old James Holmes speaking at science camp about “temporal illusions”

I’ll try to get back to temporal illusions, but I want to move on from this alleged mass killer to his dad, Robert Holmes.

Besides being possibly tied to the LIBOR clusterfuck, Robert Holmes also allegedly spent time working for HNC Software (h/t cryptogon). This is taken from the company profile:

HNC Software Inc. is San Diego’s largest software company and develops predictive software solutions for business-to-consumer service companies. These solutions allow companies to make more intelligent and profitable decisions and are marketed to industries- including financial, insurance, retail, telecommunications and the Internet.

Like many San Diego-based software companies, HNC Software Inc. traces its origins to the defense industry. When the company was launched in 1986, it focused on defense-related research and development. But over the years as defense budgets shrank not only in San Diego, but nationwide, HNC quickly realized that in order to succeed and grow, other commercial applications had to be found for its products.

But perhaps the most exciting frontier awaiting exploration and commercial development by HNC is in an area that scientists still know very little about: the human brain. HNC is working on a long-term research project launched in 1998 that is jointly funded by HNC and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the U.S. Defense Department, to investigate ‘cortronic neural networks,’ a concept originally proposed by Robert Hecht-Nielsen, HNC’s co-founder and chief scientist.

HNC hopes to develop new capabilities in the areas of textual, aural and visual representation, and to actually build three new predictive, neural-net based systems: one that reads, interprets and searches text more effectively; a second recognizing speech and other sounds, enabling users to perform audio searches; and a third that can scan for and interpret images. The ultimate goal is to integrate all three systems. The net result – machines that someday might be able to reason like humans.

“This is the most important scientific challenge of our time, and finding the answer will be the adventure of the millennium,” says Hecht-Nielsen.

I guess studying the brain, for James, was like continuing the family business.

Then there’s this bit of background about Granddad:

James Holmes, the man believed responsible for killing 12 people Friday during one of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, is the grandson of a decorated military veteran who was a respected educator at prestigious York School in Monterey.

Lt. Col. Robert M. Holmes, who served in the Okinawa campaign during World War II, retired in 1963 as the last commander of the Nike missile group in San Francisco Bay. He was one of the first Turkish language students at the Army Language School, now the Defense Language Institute, graduating in 1948, a school spokesman confirmed Friday.

A smart kid with a family legacy to live up to makes a prime candidate for a psychotic break, right? He was withdrawing from school, maybe broke up with a girlfriend, into gaming, it all makes sense.

But it doesn’t make sense. A commando-style maniac in ballistic armor who just killed or or injured almost 80 people is apprehended by his car without a fight?

It doesn’t help that the initial reports about James’ allegedly aggressive behavior in jail turned out to be false:

Sources familiar with the detention of theater shooting suspect James Holmes say his low-key detached demeanor has not changed since he was taken into custody early Friday morning.

According to knowledgeable sources, reports that Holmes was spitting at guards in jail are “simply false.”

And then there’s the questions surrounding the notebook supposedly sent to Holmes’ psychiatrist:

That story about the notebook James Holmes supposedly mailed to a psychiatrist, outlining his plans to shoot up the movie theater was a hell of a scoop for Fox News, but now Aurora prosecutors are saying in a court filing that it was probably all a big hoax. The new doubts come from a motion prosecutors filed Friday, saying the package from Holmes, discovered in a University of Colorado mailroom, hadn’t yet been inspected and any report of its contents — that would be the notebook — couldn’t be trusted. “The contents were secured and not examined, and held for potential in camera review,” the motion says. The motion comes in response to one from Holmes, and argues that his rights to a fair trial hadn’t been violated (as he’d claimed) by that leaked information because the supposed leaks were either hoaxes the reporters fell for, or made up by the reporters themselves. For evidence, the motion cites two facts it says reporters for Fox News and NBCNews.org got wrong.

One tangent I came across even speculates whether or not James Holmes was involved in the killing at all based on the position of a gas mask and a security camera.

So far, the mainstream media hasn’t delved too deeply into any of the weirdness surrounding this mass killing. The Olympics and the presidential race have already snatched back much of the national attention after a week of political posturing around gun laws.

That leaves us with online news reports, like this Huffington Post piece reporting the “expert” opinion of jailers:

James Holmes, the suspected shooter in last week’s movie theater massacre, has told his Colorado jailers he doesn’t know why he’s locked behind bars, the Daily News reports.

But no one at the Arapahoe County Detention Center is buying Holmes’ story, a lockup worker told the News. The jailers who come in contact with Holmes, who is sequestered from other inmates, believe he’s faking amnesia.

I didn’t know “lockup workers” were qualified to make such assessments. Is this the kind of reporting we can expect from the unofficial media trial of James Holmes?

To come back around to temporal illusions, this Cannonfire piece takes some wild swipes, speculating on the alleged perpetrator’s possible dalliance in hypnosis.

Exploring that line of thought one finds the obligatory mention of MK Ultra (from a Wired article not related to this case):

1953: Central Intelligence Agency director Allen Dulles authorizes the MK-ULTRA project. The agency launches one of its most dubious covert programs ever, turning unsuspecting humans into guinea pigs for its research into mind-altering drugs.

More than a decade before psychologist Timothy Leary advocated the benefits of LSD and urged everyone to “turn on, tune in, drop out,” the CIA’s Technical Services Staff launched the highly classified project to study the mind-control effects of this and other psychedelic drugs, using unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens as lab mice.

Dulles wanted to close the “brainwashing gap” that arose after the United States learned that American prisoners of war in Korea were subjected to mind-control techniques by their captors.

Loathe to be outdone by foreign enemies, the CIA sought, through its research, to devise a truth serum to enhance the interrogations of POWs and captured spies. The agency also wanted to develop techniques and drugs — such as “amnesia pills” — to create CIA superagents who would be immune to the mind-control efforts of adversaries.

It was pointed out at one of the message boards I visited to research this post that seven years ago, the CIA moved the headquarters of its domestic division to Denver (Washington Post):

The CIA has plans to relocate the headquarters of its domestic division, which is responsible for operations and recruitment in the United States, from the CIA’s Langley headquarters to Denver, a move designed to promote innovation, according to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials.

About $20 million has been tentatively budgeted to relocate employees of the CIA’s National Resources Division, officials said. A U.S. intelligence official said the planned move, confirmed by three other government officials, was being undertaken “for operational reasons.”

A CIA spokesman declined to comment. Other current and former intelligence officials said the Denver relocation reflects the desire of CIA Director Porter J. Goss to develop new ways to operate under cover, including setting up more front corporations and working closer with established international firms.

This horrible tragedy in Aurora raises a lot of questions, but with a judicial process committed to secrecy, we can’t expect much in terms of answers. James Holmes will instead be tried by the media, and I doubt the initial depiction of him being a psychotic lone wolf will be challenged.

Which is too bad, because I don’t think James Holmes was the only person involved in this shooting.

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by jhwygirl

Well-pedigreed sources are saying that University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson – who was accused of rape back in March – will be announcing his departure from the scandal-ridden Griz football team in the next few days.

Jordan was suspended briefly from the team until a temporary restraining order was replaced by a civil agreement between the victim and Jordan back in late March.

The victim was not pleased.

City of Missoula Police handed the case to County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg back in May. It appears it still sits with his office, unprosecuted at this time.

If rumours are true, Jordan Johnson was expelled back in May, the rumour started with a storm of twitter comments back on May 25th.

Other rumors have had the Jordan Johnson case as one in which he was appealing his expulsion to the University of Montana disciplinary system.

The student code of conduct and the disciplinary system remains cloaked due to privacy laws. That being said, if Johnson was indeed expelled, that would make it impossible to play for the Griz.

This will leave new coach Mike Delaney pretty shallow on qb’s – interim athletics director Jan Gee announced earlier this month that Gerald Kemp had been dismissed from the team – and Nate Montana left back in May.

Though the very next day after Gee announced Kemp’s dismissal, coach Delaney clarified that Kemp could be reinstated.

With today’s announcement – removing the “interim” label from Delaney’s coaching position – Delaney seemed darn happy. Engstrom, for all the Griz-hate he’s endured, did a good thing for the embattled team, making Delaney a permanent coach with a 2 year contract.

The team needs stability – and it needs a no-nonsense coach. While he’s already shown some waiver of his alleged no-nonsense style, Delaney will hopefully keep the team on the track that it should be on: A team with high moral standards, a commitment to education and community first, and a strong desire to win while maintaining those standards.

by jhwygirl

The Missoulian is reporting that County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg is requesting $100,000 to plan for the risk exposure from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into 518 rapes and sexual assaults here in Missoula over the last 4 years. From Dale Bicknell, Chief Administrative Officer for Missoula County:

“We may have some risk here and we’re trying to plan for it.”

Van Valkenburg, you might remember, is refusing to cooperate with the DOJ investigation. He’s also provided all of his correspondence with the DOJ, along with a reply to previous postings here at 4&20 on the matter.

For my part, I remain unconvinced and believe that his behaviour is unproductive. I want his cooperation. Van Valkenburg’s lack of cooperation is disconcerting, to say the least – and comments in the Missoulian do seem to indicate that concern (and more.)

Apparently, even Missoula County officials are feeling the same. From the Missoulian article

Bickell said Van Valkenburg’s stance leaves the county feeling that it might need to protect itself on two fronts.

“One is to cover any costs of outside counsel, should there be some sort of litigation,” he said. In late May, a Justice Department letter to Van Valkenburg said that “we remain hopeful that our offices can work cooperatively so that we can resolve our investigation promptly and, if our investigation leads to findings, avoid unnecessary litigation.”

I supposed the County Commissioners are in a bit of a hard place – Van Valkenburg is an elected official. But instead of just doling out $100K, perhaps they should ask why they should have to do that.

How does his position benefit the victims? Benefit Missoula?

In other words, is Van Valkenberg’s stubbornness going to be one huge taxpayer dollar money suck, and to what purpose? Wouldn’t it be more prudent for Van Valkenberg to cooperate?

Does anyone (but Fred) think that Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg is going to keep the DOJ from its investigation? The DOJ has had UMontana’s cooperation – and they’ve had the City of Missoula Police’s too. That along with interviews gives the DOJ a significant part of the puzzle already.

The interesting little tidbit in the Missoulian story is towards the end where Van Valkenburg referenced the Seattle Police Department as an example of how expensive dealing with the DOJ can become.

The Seattle Police Department? In December, the DOJ released a zillion page investigation which basically said that the Seattle PD violated civil rights by using excessive force 20% of the time. There was also a pattern of racial bias. And corruption.

Seattle is apparently still unwilling to cooperate with the DOJ towards resolution.

And – even without Seattle having been found to have violated civil rights, Van Valkenburg has more than just the commonality of having the DOJ wanting to look at records with the Seattle PD – the person leading the investigation? Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

The denial going around doesn’t stop with Van Valkenburg and his mysterious clan of email buddies cheering him on – Engstrom is continuing his happy-go-lucky ways, saying in the Missoulian article on the Penn State sanctions: “The situations (at Penn State and UM) are so totally different that it just doesn’t make any sense to compare them.”

“Totally”?

Yeah…well that’s another post.

Van Valkenburg should cooperate. It shows lack of concern for victims. It’s a losing proposition. And it’s costly.

by lizard

Alden Van Buskirk died in 1961 at the age of 23 from a rare blood disease. His medical case was the focus of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (August 31, 1961), titled “Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria: A Successful Imposter.”

Until a week ago I had never heard this poet’s name. Then I ran across an essay from the Poetry Foundation, titled “Death Will Be My Final Lover” and after reading it I immediately went to AbeBooks to see if I could find a copy of his posthumous book of poems, written during the last year of his life, title Lami.

Alden is seen as a sort of lost beat angel, dead before his time. Allen Ginsberg was even talked into writing an introductory note for Lami when it came out in 1965 (only 1,000 copies were published).

I’m always impressed at poetic talent when it appears at such a young age (thinking back to the material I was writing at the age of 23 makes me cringe).

When I got the book in the mail a few days ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then I read the first poem, and I thought, not bad for a 23 year old writing a half century ago.   Continue Reading »

By JC

Everywhere you go people are talking and writing about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Most of it is predictable, time worn and weary: must change gun laws (both to loosen and to restrict access to weapons);  must change punishment for gun crimes; must increase surveillance state; yada, yada, yada.

I’m always amazed by those who think that if just a few more people were heavily armed and better trained, that these sorts of tragedies could be prevented or ameliorated. Or that if we had stiffer penalties that the consequences would lead even semi-rational people to think twice. Maybe if we heavily restricted access to various forms of portable weapons of mass destruction that somehow individuals wouldn’t find other ways to unleash their psychotic visions upon the rest of us. Maybe if we intimidated the evil-doers-to-be or crazies-in-action, that they would wither at our more mighty power.

What most people forget is that these mass murderers — people like James Holmes, Timothy McVeigh, Anders Breivik, Jared Loughner, Ted Kaczynski and the rest — are psychopaths. They don’t respond to typical legal, social and cultural pressures. They live in a world of their own where consequences and norms don’t apply.

But as usual, we have calls to change public policy that inevitably will affect only the rest of us — because of the actions of a lone wolf, the rest of us will suffer some form of repression. That is, the pathos of the psychopath is what continues to motivate the rest of us to think about gun laws and other ways to change how we as a society respond to these horrible events. Most of it inevitably is misguided and just serves to pander to one’s pet cause.

None of those things deal with the problem of how to respond to the psychopaths among us. What breeds psychopathy? What motivates a psychopath into action? How can we predict who may be, or become a psychopath and strike out? How do we deal with one in action?

To answer these questions, our country needs to engage in some form of self-reflection and critique to see how our culture has bred the tendency for some individuals to become psychopaths. Mass murder creates a pathos where the country emotionally, not rationally responds to events. But the roots of the disease that feeds the insanity of  murderers wantonly acting out their delusions are never analyzed.

We live in country that glorifies violence at home and abroad. We embrace inequality, prejudice and bigotry. We believe ourselves exceptional and mighty, the benevolent empire. We ignore science and fact, replacing it with ideology and faith. We immerse ourselves in pop culture and internet fantasy, shying away from the natural world just feet away outdoors. We glorify the actions of professional soldiers and mercenaries fighting a war few understand, far away in lands we can’t even locate on a map, started for reasons untold. We jail more people as a percent of population than any other “democratic” nation in the world. We imbue pieces of paper — articles of incorporation — with the same rights us flesh-bloodeds receive, yet access to health care is not viewed as a right. We do not hold our “elites” responsible for their political, corporate, legal or financial actions, for fear that they may further oppress us.

Is it really any wonder that there are those among us who might think they are doing nothing more than role-playing their part in a comic book turned film? The pathos of the psychopath should lead us to an understanding that our nation as a whole — our collective way of life — is sick. And the solutions do not involve gun laws, vigilantism, or repression.

by lizard

When it comes to hot button topics in Montana, wolves are near the top of the list.

I was going to begin this post with a picture of a dead wolf, but what would that accomplish? It seems, with this topic, most people have made up their minds, and images of bloody carcasses would only exacerbate the already heightened emotions on both sides of this issue.

A few days ago, in the Missoulian, it was reported that the Murie family has pulled an award from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for their “all-out war against wolves.”

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has removed all references to its Olaus Murie conservation award after the researcher’s family objected to the group’s policy on wolves.

In a letter to RMEF President David Allen, Olaus Murie’s son, Donald Murie, said the organization’s “all-out war against wolves” is “anathema to the entire Murie family.”

“We must regretfully demand that unless you have a major change in policy regarding wolves that you cancel the Olaus Murie Award,” Donald Murie wrote. “The Murie name must never be associated with the unscientific and inhumane practices you are advancing.”

The Missoula-based RMEF has filed amicus briefs in federal lawsuits supporting the removal of Rocky Mountain gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection. In March, it donated $50,000 to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to fund contracts with federal Wildlife Services for wolf-killing activity.

George Wuerthner—a former Montana hunting guide with a degree in Wildlife Biology—wrote a piece about the politics of the Montana wolf hunt, which appeared online at Counterpunch last Friday. In the article he touches on that pesky science stuff that the Murie family seems concerned isn’t informing the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s position on wolves. Here is how Wuerthner begins his article:

On July 12, 2012, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MDFWP) Commissioners voted 4-0 to increase wolf hunting in the state, expanding the hunting season and permitting the trapping of wolves for the first time as well. The goal is to reduce wolf numbers across the state in hopes that it will calm the hysteria that presently surrounds wolf management.

The commission’s decision to boost wolf hunting and trapping will likely lead to greater conflicts between humans and wolves because MDFWP’s management ignores the social ecology of predators.

Hunting predators tends to skew populations towards younger animals. Younger animals are inexperienced hunters and thus are more likely to attack livestock. Predator hunting disrupts pack cohesion, reduces the “cultural” knowledge of pack members about things like where elk might migrate or where deer spend the winter.

In addition, just as occurs with coyotes, under heavy persecution, wolves respond by producing more pups. More pups means greater mouths to feed, and a need to kill even more game—thus hunting and trapping may actually lead to greater predator kill of game animals like elk and deer.

Thus a vicious self-reinforcing feedback mechanism is set up whereby more predators are killed, leading to greater conflicts, and more demand for even greater predator control.

So why has MDFWP and the commission ignored the social ecology of predators? The answer lies in politics.

The rest of the article looks at the politics of wolves in Montana, and it’s probably a familiar story for most who have been either involved or have followed this issue. Wuerthner’s summary of the political landscape in Montana is definitely worth reading. He even has some “should have done” criticism for pro-wolf advocates who, Wuerthner claims, have lost the rhetorical debate.

I might even go so far as to suggest pro wolf sympathizers made some strategic mistakes. They failed to hammer over and over again that predator control is unnecessary, ethically suspect, and only leads to greater conflict. By not taking the high moral ground, they lost the political debate.

Many were unwilling to argue against wolf hunting in general—afraid that such a position would be unacceptable to most hunters and ranchers. By passively and in some cases, even agreeing that wolf control was needed, it legitimized the idea that wolf control was necessary. At that point the discussion just degenerates to a debate about how many wolves should be killed, not whether wolves should be killed in the first place.

Environmentalists should stated categorically there is no legitimate reason to kill wolves or any other predators for that matter, except perhaps for the most unusual and special circumstances such as the surgical removal of an aggressive animal.

Instead of arguing that wolves are part of the Nation’s wildlife patrimony that deserve to be treated with respect, appreciation, and enlightened policies, pro wolf activists lost the rhetorical argument by allowing anti wolf forces to define the limits of discussion and successfully frame the issue.

Political opportunism has successfully marginalized science when it comes to wolves in Montana. For a politician like Jon Tester, it no doubt appeared to be a political necessity to pander to the public’s fear any way he could, even if it meant using dubious riders on legislation and damaging the Endangered Species Act.

To achieve the arbitrary quota of bloody wolf carcasses, tortuous traps will now be used. What a despicable way of “managing” predators.

As the self-appointed stewards of wilderness, too many humans continue to prove themselves self-centered, irrationally fearful, and contemptuous of science. And to remain in power, too many politicians are happy to play along.

by lizard

For this week’s selection I’m steering clear of the shelves and putting out a William Skink original. The first stanza has a word change if you read the tweet a few days ago. Also, it doesn’t have a title. Suggestions are welcome. Continue Reading »

by lizard

I must admit, when I think of regulations, I usually think of necessary government oversight of Big Business to keep the public safe. Deregulation, or lax regulation, in my mind, are significant contributing factors to our economic crisis and major environmental disasters, like the BP blow out in the Gulf of Mexico and Fukushima nuclear disaster.

If you have similar knee-jerk thoughts, I’d suggest maybe putting those thoughts aside for a moment, then go check out The Montana Regulation Project. Here’s the mission:

As the amount of local, county and state regulation increases, the ability of Montana citizens to exercise their rights under Montana’s Constitution Article II “of pursuing life’s basic necessities” has become increasingly difficult. While we understand the state’s interest in protecting the public through regulation we also understand that the regulatory corpus becomes outdated, ineffective, and presents barriers to entry for people working in their own interest and needs continual review for rationality, cost effectiveness and process efficiency in order to provide for the economically disadvantaged to rightfully earn a living in the economic pursuit of their choosing.

We are convinced that the regulatory burden falls disproportionately hard on individuals who hope to create and trade products and services who are in the initial start-up or early expansion phase of small business enterprises and that certain regulations are in place either from a poor understanding of the risks posed to the public or by regulatory capture of special interest who, under the banner of public interest, gain by limiting the entry of new competition and market participants. Additionally, over time the bureaucratic processes of regulation become equally prohibitive for new and growing market entrants and increase in perpetuity for the convenience of the regulators at the expense of the regulated.

Thus, the goal of The Montana Regulation Project (The Project) is to reduce the regulatory barriers to entry for first stage growth and other small enterprises to the greatest extent possible without damaging the public interest.

I applaud the focus of this project on “barriers to entry for first stage growth” because that is the stage where regulation can function as a disincentive for developing new, small businesses.

In Missoula, the story of the empanada lady is what first clued me in to the problem of regulations divorced from common sense.

In June of 2008, Kim Olson (the empanada lady) and Steve McGregor showed up to a City Council meeting to talk about the costly dilemma she faced:

The “empanada lady” wasn’t on the agenda, but she and Steve McGregor, of McGregor Mobile Foods, showed up to say that an odd rule is keeping them from using the kitchens they rent.

Officials approved the kitchen she uses at Bear’s Brew sometime in the past two years, she said. But when a business changes hands, the building needs to meet code.

And in this case, that means putting in a thousand-gallon underground tank to catch grease, Olson said. But she said she produces – at the most – just 2 cups of grease a week.

There’s another problem, too, said McGregor. That’s the high cost of one of those grease traps, at some $80,000.

The rule is meant to keep grease from going into the wastewater system, but McGregor said it also puts a severe hurt on small businesses.

“For the local guy, it doesn’t work very well,” he said.

An $80,000 grease trap system to deal with 2 cups of grease a week? Yeah, I’d say that’s unnecessary.

Local food is one area I hope The Montana Regulation Project will look at. Considering one of the two Montana bloggers involved in this project now dabbles in producing artisan cheeses, I’m certain that will be something he will be interested in bringing attention to.

Initially, just shedding light on the process might be of benefit to anyone looking to invest in starting a small business. The more folks know what they’re getting into, the better they can plan for what they’ll need to take the risk.

by lizard

It’s almost time for the Olympics. The missiles are positioned on rooftops, and the final price tag for London is only estimated to be 107% over budget, at 13 billion dollars.

Hmmm, I wonder if anyone might be a little peeved about that?

Security forces are busily militarizing the urban terrain. Olympics security officials recently unboxed the military-grade Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), an eardrum-shattering weapon that has been war-zone tested in Iraq. There are plans to station surface-to-air missiles on the roofs of London apartment buildings. The Royal Navy’s biggest warship will sit along the Thames. Typhoon jets and Lynx helicopters will be ready for action. Scotland Yard has stockpiled more than 10,000 plastic bullets. Police are constructing mobile stations to facilitate swift bookings. And “dispersal zones” have been set up where police can freely ban anyone they deem to be engaging in antisocial behavior.

None of this comes cheap. Londoners were told that the Olympics would cost £2.4 billion. Projections that include ballooning infrastructure costs are now looking at £24 billion, ten times the original bid’s estimate. They were told that the games would be funded with a “public-private partnership,” but the “private” end is now picking up less than 2 percent of the tab. In such an atmosphere, protest is inevitable, but the people coming out on July 28 are angry about more than militarization and debt. There are other issues drawing people into London’s privatized public square.

Olympics sponsorship has become a full-throttle, corporate cornucopia. London Games sponsors include icons of health and fair play like McDonald’s, British Petroleum and Dow Chemical. In the name of good health, McDonald’s is handing out “activity toys” for kids to play with after munching down their Happy Meals. BP is—no joke—an official “sustainability partner.” Dow Chemical’s prominent presence is a slap in the face to London’s large South Asian population, given the notorious gas disaster in Bhopal, India, that killed more than 20,000 people and left hundreds of thousands more suffering in its wake. In 1999, Dow Chemical merged with Union Carbide, the US firm responsible for the Bhopal nightmare.

Obscene. While the global economy continues its anemic stumbling, 98% of this insane cost is being extracted from the public of London.

Good thing Mitt saved this corporate pork project, so it could keep sucking down public funding in perpetuity, right?

Speaking of Mitt the savior, why was it these games needed saving in the first place? Oh yeah, because the fact the IOC was comprised of a bunch of corrupt assholes was bubbling to the surface.

I don’t think the Mitt as savior of the Olympics narrative has received a direct offensive yet from the DNC during our corporate games presidential election, but it will. In the DNC spot below, be sure to listen to John McCain rant about the porky price tag. And then there’s Mitt himself. Priceless.

Yes, blowing 37 million dollars for the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake games is the epitome of fiscal responsibility, is it not?

Anyway, while the UK and the EU preach austerity, London becomes the latest city to to enact a billion dollar lock down to keep London “safe” for corporate sponsors like McDonalds—who profit from poisoning people with what they pass off as “food”—to associate their brand with, ahem, health.

Mitt Romney saved the Olympics by using the corporate feeding trough American taxpayer, and while he was busy doing that, he was getting 100,000 dollars from Bain for doing absolutely nothing.

I’m amazed millions of conservatives are going to vote for this guy for president.

by lizard

Last year, in March, an earthquake and tsunami shook and flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, starting a chain reaction of events that still poses a serious threat to us (allegedly sentient) earth-bound organisms.

When I wondered if this was a 21st Century Chernobyl I wasn’t trying to be alarmist. There were explosions, talk of meltdowns and spent fuel rods, and very valid reasons for serious concern. The ensuing discussion was interesting, especially the comment that mocked the “hand wringing” in the US regarding nuclear power:

…the insane hand wringing being done by people in this country over nuclear power is driving me batshit crazy. NONE of our reactors are even remotely in the same situation as the ones in Japan and the odds of a 9.0 earthquake followed by a tsunami taking out one of our reactors is ludicrus.

The first thing I said in response to that comment was this:

one thing this country sucks at is regulating industry…

The implication being made with the first comment is that the “situation” was a direct result of the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami. My comment implies regulatory corruption is a factor to consider with nuclear power in the states.

Well, according to recent reports that the Fukushima disaster was man-made (Bloomberg) it looks like I was right to be concerned about regulation:

The Fukushima nuclear disaster was the result of “man-made” failures before and after last year’s earthquake, according to a report from an independent parliamentary investigation.

The breakdowns involved regulators working with the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. to avoid implementing safety measures as well as a government lacking commitment to protect the public, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission said in the report.

The March 11 accident, which set off a wave of reactor safety investigations around the world, “cannot be regarded as a natural disaster,” the commission’s chairman, Tokyo University professor emeritus Kiyoshi Kurokawa, wrote in the report released yesterday in Tokyo. It “could and should have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response.”

The report dealt the harshest critique yet to Tokyo Electric (9501) and the government. The findings couldn’t rule out the possibility that the magnitude-9 earthquake damaged the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 1 reactor and safety equipment. This is a departure from other reports that concluded the reactors withstood the earthquake, only to be disabled when the ensuing tsunami slammed into the plant.

*

Here at 4&20, there’s been some good recent discussion about local and state regulations, off Wall Street banks, and NIMBY zoning battles.

While I’ve been learning about the scaled down mechanisms of state and city operation, I continue to watch the national spectacle unfold, and it’s insane.

Barclays and the LIBOR scandal is just the tip of the iceberg, and the Trans Pacific Partnership is a corporate coup in the making.

Regarding LIBOR, one trail of corruption leads directly to the Obama Administration, and its name is Timothy Geithner:

“In testimony last week before the British Parliament, former Barclays chief executive Robert E. Diamond said the bank had repeatedly brought to the attention of U.S. regulators — as well as U.K. regulators — the problems that the bank was experiencing in the Libor market.

“He said the bank’s warnings to regulators that Libor was artificially low did not lead to action. Barclays’ regulator in the United States is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which was run at the time by current Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.”

Regarding the TPP, Mark Engler’s piece at truth-out says it blatantly with his lead-in:

With recent revelations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, it is now safe to say that President Obama has surpassed George W. Bush as a champion of the flawed and offensive ideology of corporate globalization.

Yep. And we’ll get four more years of Obama’s corrosive neoliberalism because Mitt is a political amoeba, glomming on to whatever stock message the gullible right demands to hear.

by lizard

I finally zoomed myself up highway 200 for my first dip in the Blackfoot today. It was glorious. After scoping a spot to stash my pack, I peeled off my T and stepped unsteadily on stones, crotch deep. The first submersion of the seasons always takes a bit of build up before the fuck it moment of plunge. After that, it’s all float and kick.

Every time I travel up 200 I think of Greta Wrolstad, a young poet who died while sitting shotgun in a car turning left to go to Johnsrud.

I never met Greta, but we shared a mentor. Her tragic but sadly not uncommon fatality on a Montana highway snatched this young woman just getting started with her verse, her life. I imagine the poems that will never be written will forever ghost the margins of those who knew her.

(there’s even a little bit of funding now pegged to her name)

After zooming back from the river, I grubbed down with the wife and kids, then, after dinner, we took a family bike ride to campus.

Amidst this haunt of water-sucking collegiate green grass, I ran across her rock. No, her stone.

20120712-214313.jpg

*

navigating by horizon. In our throats a strange
thirst persists. Perhaps there would be an end.
Comes a shoreline. Comes a harbor—a river. And
our identities come back in horror at the
river’s mouth that pleads for more silt, more
sand, refuses to slide clean to the sea. At the
river’s first bend we come ashore, and on
that shore, stones. Smooth, diminishing stones.

 

–Greta Wrolstad

20120712-221003.jpg

by jhwygirl

The GOP can chatter all they want about jobs and the economy, but the fact is that the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is voting tomorrow for the 31st time to repeal the health care reform Affordable Care Act.

It’s not about jobs..and it’s not about the economy for the GOP – it’s about trying to repeal a law that they don’t like 31 times.

I think that no matter what you feel about the actual bill itself – the fact that the GOP would take 31 votes on trying to repeal something speaks supported this volumes about who really is preventing the real work of fixing the economy.

The GOP is one huge big sore loser – and they’d rather rehash – for 31 times in 18 months the repeal of health care reform.

Not once have they offered an alternative. Not once have they offered a fix. Or their own version.

The GOP has offered NOTHING in the form of addressing the rising economically crippling and humanly catastrophic costs of health care.

But tomorrow, Montana’s own Rep. Denny Rehberg will once again – for the 31st time – vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

When Rep. Denny Rehberg wants to talk about why nothing is getting done in Washington, he should look at himself and his party. I’d suggest that doing something 30 times and failing and trying to do it again – the exact same way and without any alternative – demonstrates sheer failure in the ability to legislate.

I say “Have at it, Denny!” – you’re the best advertising for why Washington can’t accomplish anything. Keep it up!

by lizard

Raymond Carver is probably more known for his short stories than his poems, but he’s one of those writers—like Jim Harrison—who can do both fiction and poetry with skill.

Here’s a bit of his history from the NYT obit (he died in 1988):

Mr. Carver was born on May 25, 1938, in Clatskanie, Ore., to Clevie Raymond Carver, a sawmill worker, and the former Ella Beatrice Casey, a waitress. He was brought up in a gray tract house in Yakima, Wash., a mile from Bachelor Creek, where he began a lifelong love affair with fishing. Start in Storytelling

Frog, as he was nicknamed, used to sit at the foot of his parents’ bed and listen to his father read from Zane Grey books or tell his own tales of hunting and fishing.

Before long, the boy was telling his own stories, amateurish efforts at escapism that drew groans from the grown-up Carver when he recalled them in the 1988 interviews. It was not until he went to Chico State College in California in 1958 and took John Gardner’s creative writing course that he became serious about writing.

”He galvanized me,” Mr. Carver said. ”He told me who to read and helped me learn to write. He opened a door for me.”

It just so happens I picked up this book today, Carver’s Collected poems, titled All of US.

As I flipped through it, a poem jumped out at me, demanding I write this post immediately. So here it is. Enjoy! Continue Reading »

by lizard

The neo-nazis of the 21st century have been making disturbing inroads amidst the upheavals of late stage capitalism. In Greece, for example, Golden Dawn surprised a lot of people in recent elections:

Boasting close to half a million votes in recent elections, the extreme right wing party gained 21 seats in parliament. It was a first for Greece, the country that invented democracy and resisted the advance of fascism.

Before the vote, few took Golden Dawn seriously, explains one Greek student. But scores of young men started canvassing for the party months ago.

With security concerns rife as the Greek economy hangs in the balance of convoluted European Union debt negotiations, burly young Dawn members escorted select Athenians to ATMs, providing security for people wanting to pull their money out of Greek banks.

“Once in parliament, we will implement our program,” Yannis Vourdis, Golden Dawn’s political director, told CBS News.

Closer to home, the infamous blonde-haired Gaede sisters, who performed music under the name Prussian Blue (named after a byproduct of the poison used to gas jews) recently made headlines. It appears, thanks to medical cannabis, that the girls have begun to challenge their nazi indoctrination. From the link:

Their childhood saw them home-schooled in Bakersfield, California, by their mother April Gaede, herself a member of racist fringe groups the National Alliance and the National Vanguard. Her own father, Bill Gaede, wore a swastika belt buckle and even branded his cattle with the sign, The Mirror revealed.

But now aged 20 and having experienced a string of health problems including cancer, the girls say they’re embracing a hippy lifestyle – with the help of marijuana.

Both girls have Montana-issued medical marijuana cards and describe themselves as “healers”.

In 2011, Lynx exclusively told The Daily: “I have to say, marijuana saved my life. I’d probably be dead if I didn’t have it.”

Lamb added: “We just wanna exert the most love and positivity we can.”

In the same interview Lamb describes herself as “pretty liberal”, while Lynx chipped in with: “Personally, I love diversity! I’m stoked that we have so many different cultures.”

While these two girls have hopefully left their dangerous indoctrination behind, the inland Northwest is still a region that has plenty of problems with neo-nazis, white supremacists, and sovereign citizens hell-bent on using terrorist tactics to further their cause.

Remember, in January of 2011, a bomb intended to kill participants of a MLK parade in Spokane was discovered. That same year, David Burgert, one of the founding members of the Project 7 militia, fired shots at Sheriff Deputies in Lolo, sparking a manhunt that still has yet to produce this dangerous right-wing extremist.

There is still plenty to be concerned about in this region regarding right-wing domestic terrorism, but at least these two little brainwashed Neo-Nazis have begun turning their back on the hate they were raised on. If medical cannabis was a contributing factor, then just add that to the long list of benefits this plant is already known to produce.

by lizard

People have written complicated pieces trying to prove it’s not over, but if ever I saw a dead movement, it is surely Occupy.

—Alexander Cockburn

What appears to have set Mr. Cranky Pants on the path toward declaring a movement less than a year old “dead” is evident by the title of his Friday piece: Biggest Financial Scandal in Britain’s History, Yet Not a Single Occupy Sign; What Happened?

Cockburn may be falling prey to the media frenzy that demands consistent headlines from its subjects in order to keep its audience interested. I also think there is some serious generational friction being exhibited in his little diatribe from the marginalized sphere of the American Left.

For example, this:

Before the fall came there were heroic actions, people battered senseless by the police. These were brave people trying to hold their ground.

There were other features that I think quite a large number of people found annoying: the cult of the internet, the tweeting and so forth, and I definitely didn’t like the enormous arrogance which prompted the Occupiers to claim that they were indeed the most important radical surge in living memory.

So, are we to think there are no longer instances of police state repression? And who among the notoriously decentralized Occupy movement claimed they were “the most important radical surge in living memory?

From there, it gets worse, and more unsubstantiated condemnation of the occupy movement ensues:

Where was the knowledge of, let along the respect for the past? We had the non-violent resistors of the Forties organising against the war with enormous courage. The Fifties saw leftists took McCarthyism full on the chin. With the Sixties we were making efforts at revolutionary organisation and resistance.
 
Yet when one raised this history with someone from Occupy, I encountered total indifference.

There also seemed to be a serious level of political naivety about the shape of the society they were seeking to change. They definitely thought that it could be reshaped – the notion that the whole system was unfixable did not get much of a hearing.
 
After a while it seemed as though, in Tom Naylor’s question in this site: “Is it possible that the real purpose of Occupy Wall Street has little to do with either the 99 per cent or the one per cent, but rather everything to do with keeping the political left in America decentralised, widely dispersed, very busy, and completely impotent to deal with the collapse of the American empire…(my emphasis added)

While I think what Cockburn lays out here should be taken into consideration, I’m surprised he can’t understand why the notion that the whole system was unfixable did not get much hearing. That kind of cynical assessment will never attract anyone to “the cause”. Maybe Mr. Cranky Pants should ask himself why past movements have yet to produce a more equitable and just country instead of bemoaning the use of the internet by occupiers.

The other part of that quote the stood out was the hinting of a “real reason” Occupy got started. For someone who has been extremely condescending to anyone skeptical of the 9-11 narrative, this conspiratorial musing is quite curious (it should be noted there are those who wonder if George Soros and AdBusters were cynically behind the seeding of Occupy).

The fractured impotency of the political left in this country is in full display with Cockburn’s bleak assessment. Movements of all colors continue, the work goes on, and not everything is going to gain national traction. What seems to matter more is that whoever Alexander Cockburn talked to, they didn’t know much about history, and they are naive in thinking they can reshape the world.

Stay tuned, Alex. We’re just getting started.

Trust No More

by lizard

There’s an intangible factor that plays a significant role in determining economic activity: trust.

And if there wasn’t already bundles of evidence that Big Finance is a clusterfuck of dangerously untrustworthy individuals and institutions, driven by reckless greed and enabled by complicit politicians, then the latest scandal with LIBOR should be enough to shut up even the most craven apologists for the banksters.

First, what is LIBOR?

LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate, is the most active interest rate market in the world. It is determined by rates that banks participating in the London money market offer each other for short-term deposits. LIBOR is used in determining the price of many other financial derivatives, including interest rate futures, swaps and Eurodollars. Due to London’s importance as a global financial center, LIBOR applies not only to the Pound Sterling, but also to major currencies such as the US Dollar, Swiss Franc, Japanese Yen and Canadian Dollar.

LIBOR is determined every morning at 11:00am London time. A department of the British Bankers Association averages the inter-bank interest rates being offered by its membership. LIBOR is calculated for periods as short as overnight and as long as one year. While the rates banks offer each other vary continuously throughout the day, LIBOR is fixed for the 24 hour period.

While Americans celebrated our Independence, across the pond, it became just a little clearer how dependent we are on a system that’s being rigged from the very top. This from Matt Taibbi’s blog:

This Libor-manipulation story grows crazier with each passing minute. We have officially disappeared now down the rabbit-hole of the international financial oligarchy.

Former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond is testifying before parliament in London today, and that’s sure to bring some shocking moments. But there’s already been one huge stunner. In advance of that testimony, Barclays released an email from October 29, 2008, written by Diamond to then-Chairman John Varley and COO Jerry del Messier (who also stepped down yesterday). The email from the CEO to the other two senior Barclays execs purports to detail the content of the conversation Diamond had with Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker that same day.

In the email, Diamond essentially tells the other two execs that he has been given permission by Tucker – encouraged, actually – to rig Libor rates downward. What’s even worse is that Diamond’s email suggests that Tucker was only following orders, i.e. that Tucker had received phone calls from “a number of senior figures within Whitehall” – that is, the British government – expressing concern about Barclays’ high Libor rates. Tucker in this version of events was acting as a middleman for the British government, telling Diamond to fake his borrowing rates in order to preserve the appearance of financial stability, for the good of Queen and country as it were.

Back at home, our Plutocratic Pleasing President has the jobs report to weather as the nation roasts. Over at ECW, Dave Budge has his take, which is worth reading, as it doesn’t resemble a blood-in-the-water electioneering pounce for obvious political points.

Here is Dave’s brief list of factors at play for global business:

…unworkable currency and likely recession in Europe, undiscoverable economics metrics in China, and all sorts of geopolitical risks that may lead to a real shooting war in the not-to-distant future. Combined, these factors and many others make the global business climate fraught with uncertainty that makes businesses – both domestic producers and international players – hesitant to create the supply-side activity…

Dave goes on to talk about how “We are choking on a system of restrained trade everywhere we look” but there is nothing in his look at the Big Picture about the deep, undeniable corruption that has created a lot of uncertainty for everyone.

The tea party anger was initially focused on the bailout of the banks. Three years later, Occupy sprang up to point out how the biggest redistribution of wealth in US history has created a chasm between the 99% and the plutocrats. The Ron Paul insurrection (that will be quietly put to sleep by fall) continues to justifiably rage against the actions of the Federal Reserve. And, like Charles Ferguson keeps reminding us, prosecutions are, to put it nicely, sorely lacking. From the link:

According to Ferguson, there is overwhelming public evidence in (1) lawsuits, (2) depositions, (3) government investigations, and (4) whistleblowers of highly illegal conduct in the housing bubble and financial crisis. There is a staggering amount of evidence that CEOs of Wall Street firms, like Lehman Brothers, were warned that their financial controls were inadequate and their accounting was wrong, or to put in it in plain English: ‘their books were cooked’. A prime example is a memo warning to top Lehman executives by Senior Vice President Matthew Lee, “I feel it is my ethical and legal responsibility to point out to you that there are billions of dollars of unjustified assets on our balance sheet.” (To see the memo, Google: “Matthew Lee and Lehman.”) A month later Lee was dismissed from the firm and the CEO of Lehman continued to stand by the firm’s financial statements even though warned of extreme problems, inaccuracies, and overstatements, e.g., ‘Repo 105’ transactions artificially boosted the firm’s balance sheet by $50 billion! This is illegal corporate behavior of the first order, but where are the criminal charges?

J-girl points out what happens when some laws are blatantly not enforced—the illegal behavior happens in abundance.

Exactly.

Luckily, uneducated violators of firework bans aren’t in the position to blow up the global economy with their mortar shells and roman candles.

Ivy league educated titans of finance are, on the other hand, in that position, and they continue to fight any attempt, however meager, to restrain their habitual greed and chronic corruption (for a good distillation of the absurdity of Congress’ “grilling” of Jamie Dimon, Jon Stewart does it again).

Trust, some argue, is integral to economic development. I haven’t had a chance to look too closely at at this article yet, titled Social Attitudes and Economic Development: an Epidemiological Approach, but I like how it starts:

What are the fundamental causes of differences in income per capita across countries? Although there is still little consensus on the answers to this question, it is often argued that social attitudes such as trust are one of the main determinants of economic development. As stressed by Kenneth Arrow:1 “Virtually every commercial transaction has within itself an element of trust, certainly any transaction conducted over a period of time. It can be plausibly argued that much of the economic backwardness in the world can be explained by the lack of mutual confidence.”

The intellectual tradition stressing the importance of social attitudes dates back to at least Max Weber, and has seen many recent restatements in political science in particular, recent ones being Robert Putnam2 and Fukuyama3. In his influential book Making Democracy Work, Robert Putnam showed, for instance, how civic attitudes and trust could account for differences in the economic and government performance between northern and southern Italy. This tradition has been so influential that it has led the World Bank to put on the top of the agenda the promotion of a new kind of capital stock to trigger economic development: the social capital. Following Fukuyama, this social capital can be defined as the “set of informal values or norms shared among members of a group that permits them to cooperate with one another”. Obviously the propensity to trust each other is likely to be key for fostering such mutual cooperation and growth.

As long as justice is two-tiered, and accountability at the top non-existent, addressing the sometimes onerous regulations that hamper small business at the local level is just fiddling while the ship sinks.

What more evidence do we need that the system is rigged, and there’s virtually no political will to fix it?

I’d like to conclude this post with a ridiculous music video of the song Everything’s Ruined, by Faith No More. If you listen to the song, it fits. Stay cool Missoula!

by jhwygirl

Much was a-twitter the last few days on the lack of enforcement of the prohibition on fireworks within city limits. I, myself, gave up calling in fireworks violations last year. I think it was 2010 when the fairly new duplex down the street caught fire late in the evening. The upstairs resident was awakened by his 6 month old golden retriever (thankfully) and they escaped, and the home was saved.

I had called police twice that evening. Later, the fire marshal said they didn’t have enough evidence for any sort of investigation.

No one died, I guess.

It seems each year the Missoulian (I’m protesting putting in links tonight folks) does a perennial story on the complaints on fireworks, how many calls the police got and a nice little pr piece where a city official – elected or paid – stands there and talks about how ‘education is better’ and ‘warnings are usually effective’ statements.

Well, this year Detective Sargent Travis Welsh just told it like it really is – city police aren’t going to enforce the fireworks prohibition ordinance. Here’s Det. Sgt. Welsh on NBC news station KECI:

For those that can’t hit the video, here’s what Det. Sgt. Welsh says:

“Considering the volume of calls and the volume of people who are actually violating the ordinance…it would be a fruitless effort to try to throw everybody in jail for a minor offense.”

Before people going chewing on me for “hysterics”, consider the hysterics put forth by Det. Sgt. Welsh: He says it would be a “fruitless effort to try and throw everybody in jail for a minor offense” when such offense is not a criminal offense.

Per city municipal code, “The penalty for violating any provisions of this chapter shall solely be a fine of up to five hundred and no/100 dollars ($500.00). There shall be no penalty of imprisonment for a violation of any provision of this chapter. (Ord. 2983, 1996)”

What we really have here is a message to all Missoulians that you can do fireworks whenever you want – because we’re not going to enforce them.

Dare I suggest that if the city of police would put two officers on bikes next year – one on the northside, and one in misdemeanor meadows and felony flats – they could hand out $500 tickets, one per half hour and put an end to the onslaught of fireworks real quick.

That is, of course, if anyone wanted that ordinance enforced. Doesn’t seem, though, that anyone cares – keep in mind Det. Sgt. Welsh looked pretty comfortable standing there telling KECI that he wasn’t going to enforce the ordinance because of the sheer number of calls.

Geez – with that logic, it has me wondering what we should try and get away with next…just make sure everyone calls it in to the cops.

It’s not just pets that suffer…and it isn’t just the danger it presents to roofs and backyard party-goers – keep in mind here in Missoula (at least) how many veterans we have. PTSD, folks. I’ve told the story of my encounter with someone who has it…I can’t imagine how hearing $250 worth of rockets go off at midnight would feel for him.

We’ll regulate texting and driving because of the danger it presents, but fireworks? What goes up must come down.

Not like Montana’s burning, either.

by lizard

When my oldest brought me a book-shaped package from the mailbox, I assumed it was a book of poetry I had ordered last week. When I opened it, I found the reissue of a book long out of print, sent to my wife and I from her mother.

The book is a memoir about my wife’s grandfather, John Lewis Barkley, titled Scarlet Fields: The Combat Memoir of a World War I Medal of Honor Hero (University Press of Kansas, 2012).

Here is a selection from the introduction, written by Steven Trout:

On the afternoon of October 7, 1918, while serving as a reconnaissance observer far ahead of American lines near Cunel, France, Private John Lewis Barkley climbed into an abandoned French tank and single-handedly held off a German force of perhaps several hundred men as it advanced toward positions held by the American Third Division. Because the tank’s crew had removed the vehicle’s cannon, Barkley armed himself with a captured German light machine gun, which he pointed through a dangerously wide aperture in the turret. Deafened by the sound of his weapon, which he fired until the gun became super-heated, and surrounded by ricocheting bullets, some of which landed inside the tank, Barkley probably killed more than a hundred enemy soldiers and completely disrupted the Germans’ advance. Even an enemy 77mm cannon, which targeted the tank from just a few hundred yards away, could not drive Private Barkley from his personal fortress. He held off one wave of attackers, then another. Finally, after enemy bullets and stick grenades stopped striking the tank and a detachment of American troops appeared on the scene, he slipped away to rejoin his unit.

He told no one what he had done. However, several American soldiers witnessed the exploit; one of them even counted (or at least estimated) the number of empty machine-gun cartridges piled up inside the tank—more than 4,000 expended rounds! Weeks later, as Barkley’s unit settled into occupations duty in Germany, General John J. Pershing personally awarded the private the Congressional Medal of Honor. When summoned before the supreme commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), Barkley, a notorious trouble-maker, was certain that he was about to be court-martialed and sent to Leavenworth. He had, after all, mastered the art of smuggling liquor into camp, going AWOL, illicitly romancing mademoiselles as well as fräuleins, and engaging in just enough mischief to avoid being promoted to the rank of sergeant. No one was more surprised than this rowdy enlisted man from the Show-Me State when Pershing, a fellow Missourian, pinned the nation’s highest medal for valor on his chest.

This week’s poem comes from an anthology of WWI poetry, first published by Penguin Books in 1979. The poet’s name is Frederic Manning, and his wiki-page says this of his WWI experience:

When war broke out, Manning was keen to enlist, possibly to escape from a stifling environment and to widen his horizons. A man with his fragile constitution and unhealthy lifestyle was not going to be an attractive proposition for the military authorities, but in October 1915 after several attempts, his persistence paid off and he finally enrolled in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He was given the number Private 19022.[1] He was selected for officer training, but failed the course. Sent to France in 1916, Manning experienced action with the 7th Battalion at the Battle of the Somme, was promoted to lance-corporal and soaked up the experience of life in the trenches. He was recalled for further training and posted to Ireland in May 1917 with a commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Regiment. The life of an officer did not agree with him, he seems not to have integrated particularly well, he drank excessively, getting into trouble with his superiors. Doubtless the vivid memories of recent combat were having their effect upon his behaviour too. The inebriation was put down to neurasthenia, but Manning resigned his commission on 28 February 1918.

The poem is below the fold. Have a safe 4th of July! Continue Reading »

by lizard

Add the term Derecho—also known as a “Land Hurricane”—into our expanding vocabulary for discussing the effects of global climate change. For some reason, after hearing about the massive storm that traveled 700 miles in 12 hours, the acronym FUBAR comes to mind.

Which brings us to Rio.

Rio+20 came and went a week ago, and like most expected, it produced nothing substantive to address the suicide pact late-stage capitalism offers the world’s people.

David Suziki—father of Severn Suziki (who addressed the original summit in Rio 20 years ago)—summed up the sad spectacle on Democracy Now!:

Chris Hedges has a new piece up at Truthdig, called Time to Get Crazy, and it’s worth reading as we approach the bang and sizzle of July 4th. Here’s a cheery selection:

Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality. Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth. Karl Marx was correct when he called unregulated capitalism “a machine for demolishing limits.” This failure to impose limits cannibalizes natural resources and human communities. This time, the difference is that when we go the whole planet will go with us. Catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Arctic ice is in terminal decline. There will soon be so much heat trapped in the atmosphere that any attempt to scale back carbon emissions will make no difference. Droughts. Floods. Heat waves. Killer hurricanes and tornados. Power outages. Freak weather. Rising sea levels. Crop destruction. Food shortages. Plagues.

ExxonMobil, BP and the coal and natural gas companies—like the colonial buffalo hunters who left thousands of carcasses rotting in the sun after stripping away the hides, and in some cases carrying away only the tongues—will never impose rational limits on themselves. They will exploit, like the hustlers before them who eliminated the animals that sustained the native peoples of the Great Plains, until there is nothing left to exploit. Collective suicide is never factored into quarterly profit reports. Forget all those virtuous words they taught you in school about our system of government. The real words to describe American power are “plunder,” “fraud,” “criminality,” “deceit,” “murder” and “repression.”

There is plenty of cause for preaching doom and gloom, but that message produces paralysis. It’s important to remember that there continues to be grassroots momentum building to shift our collective thinking and actions toward a saner existence.

The unlimited growth demanded by unrestrained Capitalism is an insane, ultimately self-destructive model that will destroy the earth’s capacity to sustain human life.

Though The Hour is Late, those working toward a Great Transition are trying to describe how a majority of our Big Problems are related to climate change. From the link:

Today’s pressing global issues such as poverty, war, hunger, pollution, mass unemployment, species extinction, and deteriorating public health are directly related to the forces and misguided policies that propel global warming. As we begin to make the Great Transition to alternative energy, energy conservation, infrastructure retrofitting, mass transportation, organic agriculture, recycling and composting of biomass, and reforestation we will also be well on our way to solving all or most of the world’s most pressing problems. As the soil and food chain is revitalized through organic soil management, as animal husbandry and rotational grazing replace CAFOs, public health will be improved. As forests and wetlands are preserved, as mass reforestation takes place, GHG emissions will fall and soil and biomass sequestration will increase. As small organic farms and ranches proliferate, rural poverty and pollution will decrease. Biodiversity will be enhanced, species extinction will slow. Hundreds of millions of rural and urban green jobs will lift the majority of the world’s population out of poverty, while at the same time a green and solar-based economy will eliminate the need for resource wars, such as the current conflicts in the Middle East.

Here in Montana we’re in for a tough fight. Our talented and popular Governor can talk all he wants on progressive news shows about the SCOTUS decision to flood Montana’s little democracy boat with corporate speech, because that’s part of his schtick, and it works. Here’s a clip of Brian talking energy, including an idea he’s cinched up his bolo tie to stump for in the past—“clean coal”:

But talk is cheap (like the price per ton of Otter Creek coal, right Gov?), and actions speak louder than words.

In an economic depression, like the one we’re currently experiencing, the demand for jobs drowns out everything else, which is understandable.

But we aren’t facing just a jobs crisis, we are facing a catastrophic climate change crisis, and the demand should be for collective action to prepare ourselves for what that will mean.




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