Archive for August, 2013

by lizard

To begin this post, I’d like to feature a tweet from a rat—er, I mean Steven Rattner. Who, you may wonder? Here’s his wikipedia pedigree:

Steven Lawrence Rattner (born July 5, 1952) is an American financier who led the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry in 2009 for the Obama administration.[1] He was a managing principal of the Quadrangle Group, a private equity investment firm that specialized in the media and communications industries. Prior to co-founding Quadrangle, he was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Lazard Freres & Co., where he rose to deputy chairman and deputy chief executive officer.[2] Rattner began his career as a journalist for the The New York Times.

Rattner is currently chairman of Willett Advisors LLC, the private investment group that manages billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s personal and philanthropic assets. He continues to be involved in public policy matters as the economic analyst for MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and he has returned to The New York Times as a contributing writer for its Op-Ed page.

Now, here is the brilliant tweet that should offer a little peak into the thinking of the disaster capitalist class:

Punishing #Syria for using chemical weapons isn’t declaring war. Shouldn’t require Congressional approval. POTUS is our CEO.

This tweet is in response to the allegedly last-minute decision by the president to do that whole constitutional thing with bombing another country—ask Congress. Cabinet-level discontent is already wafting out. War was expected, and now war will be delayed.

Here is another tweet worth noting, from Dennis Kucinich:

200 in #Congress demand #Syria vote. #Constitution art.1 sec.8 -@BarackObama risking #Impeachment?

Even though Obama is being the gracious executive by asking before escalating the conflict, he still maintains he has the authority to go it alone. This from the Washington Post:

The administration insisted Thursday that President Obama has both the authority and the determination to make his own decision on a military strike against Syria, even as a growing chorus of lawmakers demanded an opportunity to vote on the issue and Britain, the United States’ closest ally, appeared unlikely to participate.

Britain’s sudden withdrawal came after Prime Minister David Cameron, deserted by rebels in his own Conservative Party, lost a parliamentary vote for provisional authorization for military action in Syria.

Cameron, who had strongly backed Obama’s pledge to ensure that Syria would face “consequences” for its alleged use of chemical weapons, said he would respect Parliament’s will. Many in his government attributed the vote loss to the legacy of British participation in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, based on false claims about weapons of mass destruction.

So now the big question is, what will Obama do if he doesn’t get the vote he wants? Will he risk impeachment to punish Assad for acting predictably brutal in the face of various rebel groups trying to violently overthrow his government?

Another good question to ask is why Syria? Here’s a hint: the answer is NOT the use of chemical weapons.

By JC

In the never-ending, and escalating drumbeat for war that has possessed our nation for generations, I thought this might be a good time for an anti-war lament. Charlotte E. Keyes is the poet who popularized the phrase “Suppose they gave a war and no one came?” in a 1966 McCall’s article.

While there is much debate and discussion about the origins of that phrase and its variations — and any who want to explore the googlizer can learn far more about the works of Sandburg, Bertold Brecht, and Ginsburg  — it is the sentiment that needs to be revisited.

I came of age in that era of senseless war, with brooding pacifism busting it’s head against a corrupt system, coming to the same conclusion as the boy in this poem: “Then governments I don’t like either.” And I’m still coming to grips with how it was to grow up in a cold warrior’s family.

Needless to say, I was one who burned his draft card and planned an escape to Canada should the lottery have claimed my soul before the Vietnam war ended.

Food for thought in an era devoid of any meaningful anti-war movement in America. Find the poem after the jump.

Continue Reading »

by lizard

If you value the hard-lived verse of Charles Bukowski—poems formed like a leathery callus around a heart-trapped bluebird—then I’m afraid I’ve got some really bad news (do I write about anything else?).

There is a pretty serious accusation that Bukowski is the victim of a post-mortem literary crime, at least that’s the case the author of this blog post is making, as evidenced by the title: The senseless, tragic rape of Charles Bukowski’s ghost by John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press.

I actually haven’t looked too closely at this claim yet, because the whole idea presented by this blogger, Michael Phillips, just makes me too damn mad, and if I really dig into this, I might have to take his suggestion and give away the editions he claims have poems that differ significantly from preserved manuscript copies or single poems published in journals and magazines.

I recommend reading the whole post for links and an actual example of the reckless editorial violations it looks like John Martin made. Here’s some of the general context:

I have enjoyed reading Bukowski since I picked up South of No North out in the California high desert town of Joshua Tree more than 20 years ago and read the entire thing without once moving from the ratty old couch I was slouched into. You could say I became a fan that day.

Bukowski died in 1994. But he was a ridiculously prolific poet, so his publisher, Black Sparrow Press, continued to release “new” poetry collections for 15 years after his death. Sounds like a sweet deal, doesn’t it? A seemingly endless stream of new books from a popular poet.

But as I would read each of the posthumous books I couldn’t help feeling that they were a little off. Reading them could give you the distinct and uneasy feeling that maybe Bukowski had lost it when he had written this stuff. That the quality of his work began to slip at some point (forget for a moment that the books were not published in the order the poems were written).

But thankfully, we have access to a lot of Bukowski’s poem manuscripts and a lot of other uncollected work in the Bukowski forum. And a funny thing happens when you start to compare the manuscripts (or literary magazine publications) with the posthumous Black Sparrow books – you see that a lot of things have been changed. And not for the better.

If this is true, I hope there is a way to publish as many of the original poems as possible.

by lizard

There aren’t strong enough words to describe the confounding decision by district Judge G. Todd Baugh to suspend all but 30 days of a 15 year sentence for the statutory rape of 14 year old Cherice Morales by her 54 year old teacher, Stacey Rambold.

Cherice Morales isn’t around to witness this travesty of justice because she committed suicide just before turning 17.

Again, there just aren’t words. And unfortunately Montana will be making national headlines again because holding rapists accountable is apparently not something any city in this state is very good at.

Absolutely disgraceful.

If you haven’t heard the judge’s inexcusable justification, read this:

Under state law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse, which makes Rambold’s crime felony rape.

However, issuing the sentence Baugh said Morales not only had equal control of the rape, but was also a troubled youth “older than her chronological age.” The remark sparked public outrage, first from Morales’ mother, Auliea Hanlon, and then from people calling for the judge to at least be censured.

What. The. Fuck.

by lizard

I promised myself I wasn’t going to do this, but then I read this Jezebel article: Solidarity is for Miley Cyrus: The Racial Implications of her VMA Performance.

(Before reading the article, I should warn readers there is an assumption in the article that you will automatically know what “twerking” means. Like YOLO, I had to make sure I knew what was being referenced here, so of course I consulted the urban dictionary and Youtube)

I promised myself I wasn’t going to write about Miley Cyrus because I didn’t think it had any bearing on the issues I’m more concerned about, but after reading the article (which I encourage everyone to do) it became clear that Cyrus’ performance is significant, and needs some thoughtful, impassioned analysis, which the article provides, in detail.

Apparently the racist critique isn’t one readily taken up by the more mainstream white feminist focus on “slut-shaming”. In reaction to this, “NinjaCate” has this to say:

See the problem isn’t that they talked about slut shaming. That deserves attention. The problem is that they completely sidestepped the other glaring teddy bear in the room, and that is the commodification of black female sexuality in Miley’s performance. But it’s not a thing that white women deal with, so it didn’t warrant inclusion or discussion by the white-led mainstream feminist media.

So I’ll include it here. What Miley did last night was easily one of the most racist displays I’ve ever seen. From her insistence on twerking, to her use of all black women as literal props (they were teddy bears) to her smacking of her dancer’s ass and the simulation of rimming, it is very clear to me, that Miley thinks that black women’s bodies are to be enjoyed, devalued and put on display for entertainment purposes.

It’s especially timely to give this issue some thought, considering tomorrow is the official anniversary of MLK’s Dream speech, where he described the triple evils of poverty, racism, and militarism.

Then, the day after that, America will probably be bombing Syria.

by lizard

On September 5th football returns, with Baltimore playing at Denver. I won’t be watching that game or any other game this year, and if I needed a reminder why (which I kind of did, since the pull of the pigskin is strong) I got two today.

First, there is news out of Buffalo that quarter back Kevin Kolb’s suffered a potentially career-ending concussion. If you look at the tape, it doesn’t appear serious, but the subsequent symptoms exhibited by Kolb’s were apparently pretty serious. I wonder if there isn’t more to this story, like previous injuries.

Second, Dave Zirin at The Nation reports on what ESPN reporters think about Roger Goodell convincing ESPN’s corporate leadership to pull its brand from a Frontline documentary and subsequent book examining the impact of concussions in the NFL.

I spoke to several of the biggest names in journalism at ESPN this weekend and their thoughts on ESPN’s official comments and reasoning for dropping out of the project ranged from “mystifying” to “deeply depressing” to “palpable bullshit.” No one I spoke to believes that ESPN looked up after fifteen months and discovered to their collective shock that they didn’t have final editorial control of the “League of Denial.”

None of the ESPN journalists with whom I spoke wanted to go on the record, with several describing such an action with the same phrase, “career suicide” but the fact that they wanted to talk at all tells a story of its own,. The collective picture they paint is one of a disheartened newsroom that feels disrespected, dismissed and demoralized

One leading columnist and television personality at the network said to me, “Generally, ESPN’s business interests will always be at odds with its journalism. It is not a journalism company. It’s an entertainment company. This is the age of journalism we live in, not just at ESPN but everywhere. Journalism is increasingly more corporate. When you get in bed with the devil, sooner or later you start growing your own horns.”

I declared this February that I was done watching football. It’s not going to be easy, but I can’t in good conscience waste time supporting what football represents.

Football is a perfect reflection of America right now, and it’s ugly.

by lizard

It’s looking increasingly possible that the hawks in DC will finally get their chance to bomb Syria, and there are “key U.S. lawmakers” who don’t care if the president asks them before the bombs drop, or after, if it’s cool to use military might to overthrow the government of another Middle Eastern country:

Two key members of congressional foreign affairs panels say they expect the United States to strike Syria following reports of chemical weapons attacks in that country last week, though other lawmakers interviewed Sunday cautioned that unilateral action would be misguided.

“I think we will respond in a surgical way and I hope the president, as soon as we get back to Washington, will ask for authorization from Congress to do something in a very surgical and proportional way. Something that gets their attention, that causes them to understand that we are not going to put up with that kind of activity,” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

But Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs panel, said President Barack Obama may not need to wait for congressional authorization.

“Congress needs to be involved but perhaps not initially,” Engel said. “Perhaps the president could start and then Congress needs to resolve it and assent to it. We cannot sit still. We’ve got to move and we’ve got to move quickly.”

It’s all good, prez, just go ahead and start bombing shit, ’cause we got your back.

It’s also astounding to see how the media operates in this country. From the beginning of this “humanitarian” crisis, our corporate media has tried to sell us on intervention. Now, read this New York Times opinion piece, especially this part:

Things looked far less gloomy when the rebellion began two years ago. At the time, it seemed that Syrian society as a whole had emerged from the grip of fear to demand an end to Mr. Assad’s dictatorship. Back then, it was realistic to hope that moderates of one sort or another would replace the Assad regime, because they make up a large share of the population. It was also reasonable to expect that the fighting would not last long, because neighboring Turkey, a much larger country with a powerful army and a long border with Syria, would exert its power to end the war.

As soon as the violence began in Syria in mid-2011, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, loudly demanded that it end. But instead of being intimidated into surrender, Mr. Assad’s spokesmen publicly ridiculed Mr. Erdogan, while his armed forces proceeded to shoot down a Turkish fighter jet, before repeatedly firing artillery rounds into Turkish territory and setting off lethal car bombs at a Turkish border crossing. To everyone’s surprise, there was no significant retaliation. The reason is that Turkey has large and restless minority populations that don’t trust their own government, which itself does not trust its own army. The result has been paralysis instead of power, leaving Mr. Erdogan an impotent spectator of the civil war on his doorstep.

Consequently, instead of a Turkey-based and Turkish-supervised rebellion that the United States could have supported with weapons, intelligence and advice, Syria is plagued by anarchic violence.

The war is now being waged by petty warlords and dangerous extremists of every sort: Taliban-style Salafist fanatics who beat and kill even devout Sunnis because they fail to ape their alien ways; Sunni extremists who have been murdering innocent Alawites and Christians merely because of their religion; and jihadis from Iraq and all over the world who have advertised their intention to turn Syria into a base for global jihad aimed at Europe and the United States.

Yes, things “looked less gloomy” because two and a half years ago the humanitarian intervention narrative was working its magic, and if it wasn’t for the veto from Russia and China at the UN, Syria would already be enjoying its postmortem liberty, like Libya. And Iraq. And soon, Afghanistan.

There are times when the president says something that leads to action. Declaring his RED-LINE policy using chemical weapons as the trigger now forces him to do something, even if it’s just a few delicately placed cruise missiles.

It also provides the “rebels” with an idea: hey, since we’re getting our asses kicked, and we have foreign jihadists who don’t care about blowing up civilians, we might as well kick it up a notch, if that’s what Americans need to hear about on NPR.

I also like the part in the quote above that ridicules Turkey for not risking internal upheaval to take the fight to its border with Syria more forcefully. What a dick, and further proof how truly clueless the chattering class can be.

What the blabbing chicken hawks don’t seem to get is that at any point the whole region could go hot, so I don’t blame US proxies for their reluctance.

It would make sense, however, to ponder if there has ever been a more craven collection of Congress critters in the short history of this country.  I mean, fuck.

Well, to wrap up another depressing post, I will leave you with a letter from our President. It’s from a few years ago, but I’m assuming it’s become a new presidential ritual—extending the blessed national emergency, which justifies all this imperial madness:

September 10, 2010

Dear Madam Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. Consistent with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register the enclosed notice, stating that the emergency declared with respect to the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, is to continue in effect for an additional year.

The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect after September 14, 2010, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat.

Sincerely,
BARACK OBAMA

Summers End-Game Memo

by lizard

I could probably save myself from this post by just saying presidents are hucksters for the wealth that yank their strings, but where’s the fun in that?

I’ve been criticized for focusing on the executive office as held by president Barack Obama. I think there is a good case to be made for why the executive office is no more than a PR gig with lifetime benefits, and that attacking the office necessarily becomes an attack on a somewhat powerless placeholder for real power, which lies elsewhere.

Rob Kailey put it nicely when he described my (and JC’s) criticism of the current presidential placeholder as: ‘Fuck the guy falsely in charge ’cause we aren’t getting what we want!’.

By “falsely in charge” I think Rob means my criticism of the executive branch doesn’t properly take into account the role of Congress in fucking shit up, and not that I think there are birth certificate issues with our president.

For full context, read the whole thread at Tokarski’s place, Piece of Mind, the post titled Very Strange.

It is, all, very strange.

Like how summer is ending and Greg Palast breaks Larry Summers and the Secret “End-Game” Memo.

Teaser:

When a little birdie dropped the End Game memo through my window, its content was so explosive, so sick and plain evil, I just couldn’t believe it.

The Memo confirmed every conspiracy freak’s fantasy: that in the late 1990s, the top US Treasury officials secretly conspired with a small cabal of banker big-shots to rip apart financial regulation across the planet. When you see 26.3% unemployment in Spain, desperation and hunger in Greece, riots in Indonesia and Detroit in bankruptcy, go back to this End Game memo, the genesis of the blood and tears.

Hmmm, wasn’t that the reign of the neoliberal Clinton regime?

#Hillary2016!

Falsely in charge also carries the hint of conspiracy—maybe Kenya, maybe blackmail—the latter reminding me of the Franklin Credit Union scandal.

For some reason, I really want to understand the leverage that has made Obama such a pliable PR guy.

Maybe his kids get a spot in the cryogenic escape pods?

Ultimately it doesn’t matter. Larry Summers and his ilk keep lurking like chiggers in Kentucky blue grass (I am still scratching bites from vacation).

Here is one more snip from the Palast piece:

The Treasury official playing the bankers’ secret End Game was Larry Summers. Today, Summers is Barack Obama’s leading choice for Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, the world’s central bank. If the confidential memo is authentic, then Summers shouldn’t be serving on the Fed, he should be serving hard time in some dungeon reserved for the criminally insane of the finance world.

by lizard

I don’t think Martin Luther King’s dream included a black president endorsing the racist policy of stop and frisk.

In July, after George Zimmerman was acquitted, Obama interrupted a press conference to make a statement, and this is part of what he said:

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

If Obama was a young black man in New York, there is a very good chance he would be stopped and frisked by police, because in New York it’s policy to automatically view young men of color as suspicious and in need of getting their bodies touched by law enforcement. And if a cop was frisking a young Obama, there is also a good chance they would find some marijuana, since we know the president got high as a young man.

Around the same time the president attempted to publicly identify with Trayvon, he also publicly praised Ray Kelly, the NYC police commissioner. This Daily Kos post called the endorsement Stunningly Tone Deaf and Troubling.

The president said: “Kelly has obviously done an extraordinary job in New York,”

So I guess that means the president thinks stop and frisk is good policy, as well as spying on Muslims, which the NYC police is currently being sued for doing, extensively.

What did that surveillance entail, you ask? The Nation has the answer:

In yet another program developed under the guise of prevention, the department transformed itself into a formidable intelligence agency. The NYPD Intelligence Division indiscriminately spied on Muslim communities and Muslim student associations in New York City, Long Island and throughout the Northeast. In so doing, the NYPD put to use its own 2007 report on radicalization, which correlates increasing religiosity and politicization in Muslims with the potential for terrorism. So the NYPD went whitewater rafting with City College students, worried about “militant paintball trips” at Brooklyn College, and sent undercover operatives to take notes at mosques and ask questions at “ethnic hot spots” like restaurants and bookstores. Despite Kelly’s fierce defense of the program’s necessity, the department admitted that not a single prosecution has resulted out of this wall-to-wall surveillance. Like the stop-and-frisk program, these programs instill fear. Muslim communities have reported decreased mosque attendance, reluctance to engage in “[p]olitical organizing, civil engagement and activism,” and “self-censorship on many religious and political topics.” Kelly’s version of security means no space is sacred, or free of watch, for New York’s Muslims. The message sent to Muslims: you are all suspects, and there is no place you should feel safe.

Bang up job there, Ray. I hope the NYC STASSI enjoyed those terrorist rafting trips.

So how is the dream doing 50 years later? Here are a few tweets from Dave Zirin (The Nation) live-tweeting the commemorative march today:

Just saw hundreds of placards that said “Stop the New Jim Crow” confiscated by Park Police at March on Washington anniv.

Still can’t believe that happened. Printed placards said “End Mass Incarceration. Stop the New Jim Crow” Park Police snatched them.

Two people yelled at Park Police for taking placards. Threatened with arrests. They backed down, feeling cowed at event of empowerment.

Let’s not kid ourselves, for too many, the dream is still a nightmare.

by lizard

Going on vacation is important. It’s important to disrupt routine, interrupt habits, and put yourself outside your comfort zone. Of course, the benefit of paid leave is one of those socialist luxuries Americans don’t seem to understand they should be demanding. For a mainstream framing, CNN explored a few years ago why we are a “No-Vacation Nation”.

I also took a forced vacation from my ubiquitous smart phone, which was really nice. Removing hand-held access to the dings of twitter and wordpress let me see how pervasively it seeps in, and it’s not a good thing.

Now, vacation is over, and so is summer. Students are repopulating their haunts. I assume at some point those congressional critters will scurry back from their home-state nut-gathering events to “work” at solving those big problems facing our United States.

For returning students, the news is grim whatever you want it to be, depending on which manipulative wind bags you get your news from. Sure, you can read that alternative stuff like the hyperbolic rantings of Michael Whitney, claiming Obama is destroying the Middle Class, but why bother. It certainly can’t be that bad.

Here is a grossly reductive way of describing Obama’s economic policies from the article:

The reason the economy isn’t growing is because the people in charge don’t want it to grow. It’s that simple. I mean, how hard is it to boost GDP: You spend a little money, you run up the budget deficits and “Viola”, the economy grows! It ain’t rocket science. What Obama and his paymasters want, is a subtler form of “structural adjustment”. (Subtler than the Euro-model, that is.) This is typical of the Democrats; they’re always trying to prove they can implement the same hard-right policies with more finesse than their blundering counterparts. But it all amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it? Everyone knows that the middle class is getting clobbered while all the gravy is flowing to the parasites on top.

Do I spy Larry Summers sitting on the bench, still begging for the ball?

If only the botched economic policies from this administration could somehow threaten football in America, then we might see some changes.

Because you better believe by September kick-off that this CBS blackout on Time Warner will get resolved.

Because screwing with football is ill advised.

Here’s Forbes describing the NFL referee contract dispute when it sparked with that hilarious Green Bay/Seattle debacle—hilarious because the proportion of the freak out was crazy, considering all the actual serious shit going down:

Last night, NFL fans saw something new. The Monday Night Football game ended with an end zone pass to Seattle receiver Golden Tate. The play was ruled a completed pass by replacement refs despite the fact that the ball appeared to be firmly in the possession of an intercepting Green Bay defender. The ruling determined the outcome of the game, giving victory to the Seattle Seahawks over the Green Bay Packers. The overwhelming reaction to replays of the controversial play was that it was a blown call by the NFL replacement officials. (The Seattle Seahawks and the refs at the game may feel differently of course.) This single play has put an exclamation mark on weeks of frustration and mounting anger over the replacement ref situation from players, coaches and now the fans.

It’s impossible to guess exactly what the NFL was thinking when they locked out their referees after failing to agree to a new contract. Certainly they were trying to minimize some costs and change the pension rules for the refs who are paid $160,000 – well under half of the league minimum of $390,000 for a rookie player who may never make it onto the field for a league game. It is certainly understandable that management thought this lockout would end quickly. After all, as NFL VP Ray Anderson said “You’ve never paid for an NFL ticket to watch someone officiate a game.”

It was amazing, at the time, to observe how the usual demonization of labor strikes was temporarily suspended. Because football.

Right now, we don’t need the distraction of football, because the news cycle has literally exploded, at least locally, with wild fires, the Rick’s Auto Body accident that killed one worker, and some dude questioned for possibly being in possession of bomb making materials.

On the bigger stage, there was the dramatic rescue of Hannah Anderson and the even more dramatic 911 tape of Antoinette Tuff deescalating a mentally ill young man who could have done serious damage.

With so much going on—with summer over and families getting ready for school (I can’t believe my oldest starts kindergarten on Monday)—I doubt the news item that has me freaked out tonight will get much traction, again.

“Tepco Has Lost Control” —What Is Really Happening In Fukushima In Four Charts.

That link is to a Zerohedge post interpreting a Wall Street Journal article that finally reports honestly on the long-supressed reality of the worst nuclear disaster in history. And here is the most disturbing part from the WSJ article:

Tepco said it doesn’t think that water has flowed into the sea but can’t say for sure. Some of the flooded reactor basements are similarly too hot to approach, and it is still not clear where the melted fuel cores are, or in what state.

That’s not just my emphasis added.

There has been a media blackout about the extent of this disaster for years. On March 12th, 2011, I knew enough to ask in the title of this post if this was a 21st century Chernobyl.

The answer, clearly, is yes.

While the latest accusations of Syrian war crimes involving chemical weapons make the media rounds, and Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley) is sentenced to 35 years for disclosing evidence of war crimes (and so much more), there are literally millions of Japanese citizens who could die in the coming years as Tepco’s failed attempt to contain this disaster becomes harder to ignore.

by lizard

I’ve been on vacation for the last 6 days, and tomorrow will be flying back to the “game changing” Lolo fire complex. I didn’t have any internet connectivity with my phone for some reason, which annoyed me at first, but it was actually a blessing to not have twitter and comment notification at my fingertips.

This week’s poetry post is a very interesting offering. I’m going to feature it first, then explain what’s going on after. Though I built the poem, the only original contribution I made is the title. Enjoy!

*

CUT AND PASTE

sex with an electronic bug
a coffin on wheels is now a bed
what finds no reason but receives an answer
the jasmine blinker of your breath
banking in to the Miami airport
your fingers touch me like a bird’s wing
now they vanish among the branches in the teacup
down the ladder to sleep
third possessor of the Delphic Oracle
ending the combinations
use for example the United States
people flew into themselves
flies ants bugs and busy rodents all over everything
The Past gnaws through the earth below the bed
blood bells yawn
the inner landscape is blurred
my cowardice is a beautiful dance
chopped red meats still beat and twitch
in the stupor of redward fog
she practiced, singing “two by two”
blue is an eternal color
O Saturday afternoons!
I can see the spoon in your hand
Europe around me: accents, paranoid talk
I owe nothing to the Phoenix
the ones incorporating the changes
will do the trick
cut the hair of your muse
near Spring Street
the date: April 30, 1789
he is alive in every marked deck
and my heart always follows
a boy in a cape of many colors
I thought it might be a dream
he was master of them all
go and warn every jasmine
all that has breath, all things that creep
the creature of the vents
it’s hard to keep the lid on
soon my life will be the moon
wheels in the darkness sing
Continue Reading »

by lizard

The Obama administration is engaged in a systematic dismantling of our constitutional rights. It’s happening on so many fronts, it’s difficult to keep up.

The NSA scandal is huge, and keeps growing. Every time Obama tries to do or say something, he just more firmly establishes his craven role in repeatedly misleading the American people.

But I have to give it to our president, appointing James Clapper as part of the NSA review is galling beyond words. Instead of getting arrested for lying to Congress, this fucker will get to review the programs he lied about.

Here is what Obama said just a week ago about this “review” process:

[W]e’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. We need new thinking for a new era. We now have to unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in the haystack of global telecommunications. And meanwhile, technology has given governments — including our own — unprecedented capability to monitor communications.

So I am tasking this independent group to step back and review our capabilities — particularly our surveillance technologies. And they’ll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, ask how surveillance impacts our foreign policy — particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public. And they will provide an interim report in 60 days and a final report by the end of this year, so that we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy, and our foreign policy.

Maintain the trust of the people, Mr. President? Have you switched from weed to meth?

But this post isn’t about the NSA scandal, or the onion-esque insanity of appointing an unindicted criminal to review the criminality of the NSA.

It’s about Hedges vs. Obama, and why a July ruling has given the Obama administration another victory in its relentless assault on the constituion.

Here is the lead in to Lawrence Davidson’s article:

Back in January of 2012 former war correspondent Christ Hedges and others, including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and specifically the Act’s Section 1021(b)(2), which allows for indefinite detention by the U.S. military of people “who are part of or substantially support Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces engaged in hostilities against the United States.” This detention denies those held of the ability to “contest the allegations against them because they have no right to be notified of the specific charges against them.” In this suit filed by Hedges et al., the issue in question was the vagueness of the terms “substantially support” and “associated forces.” For instance, could this vagueness lead to apprehension and detention of journalists who publish interviews with members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban? Could it lead to the same treatment against political activists protesting U.S. policies against these or “associated” groups?

The case, now designated Hedges v. Obama, was initially heard in New York District Court by Judge Katherine Forrest. The plaintiffs claimed that the NDAA violated the 1st (free speech), 5th (due process as well as the stipulation that people must be able to understand what actions break the law) and 14th (equal protection) Amendments to the Constitution. To address the question Judge Forrest asked the government lawyers if they could assure the court that the activities of the plaintiffs would not result in indefinite detention under the act. If they could give such assurances it would, as far as the judge was concerned, eliminate the plaintiff’s “standing” to challenge the law.

The government lawyers refused to give those assurances, and as a result, the judge concluded, “The definitions of ‘substantially supported’ and ‘associated forces’ were so vague that a reporter or activist could not be sure they would not be covered under the provision.” This, in turn, would result in what the plaintiffs considered a “chilling effect on free speech and freedom of the press.” Therefore, in September 2012, the Judge granted a permanent injunction against the practice of indefinite detention as put forth in NDAA.

Until July, this permanent injunction was in place. But then those lovely government lawyers said, no, trust us, we wouldn’t go after journalists, and poof, the injunction went away:

There is no evidence that the U.S. government ever complied with this injunction, and its lawyers immediately appealed the ruling to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. When the case was heard in this court, the U.S. Justice Department suddenly came up with the assurances it refused to give only weeks before. In part it was because of these assurances that the appeals court decided to overturn Forrest’s ruling and grant a permanent stay of her injunction. In one of its interim rulings, the appeals court observed, “Since the U.S. government has promised that citizens, journalists, and activists were not in danger of being detained as a result of NDAA, it was unnecessary to block the enforcement of 102 (b)(2) of the NDAA.” However, as Carl Mayer, the lawyer for Christopher Hedges, had noted earlier, “The government has not put in any evidence. They just keep making these broad assurances. It’s all a ‘trust us’ proceeding.” And trust them is exactly what the appellate judges did. The appeals court’s final ruling in favor of the government was given on 17 July 2013.

The article goes on to provide a very specific, tangible example of why the government is absolutely NOT trustworthy, citing another precedent set in Holder vs Humanitarian Law Project:

Despite the naive faith of the Second Circuit judges in the verbal assurances of government lawyers that the NDAA will be enforced in a constitutional manner, there is evidence that such assurances cannot be trusted. Government personnel seem not to have enough objectivity and simple common sense for trust to be placed in them. For example, consider the 2010 case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.

This case was argued before the Supreme Court in January 2010 and challenged that part of the USA Patriot Act, which prohibits “material support” to groups designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. Just as “substantially support” and “associated forces” are too vague for Hedges and his fellow plaintiffs, so was “material support” too vague for the Humanitarian Law Project. The HLP was seeking to interact with alleged terrorist groups such as the Kurdistan Workers Party of Turkey so as to “help the group enter into peace negotiations and United Nations processes.” In other words, the HLP wanted to help lead such organizations away from violence and toward nonviolent strategies. Could this be construed as giving “material support” to terrorists? The Obama Justice Department, in striking disregard of common sense, argued that it was indeed material support and thus a criminal venture. And, as it turned out, in its June 2010 decision, the Supreme Court agreed.

This was not just an intellectual exercise in front of the highest court of the land. The resulting Supreme Court decision quickly assumed real life significance. Within three months of its decision, the FBI was raiding homes in Chicago and Minneapolis, confiscating computers and files, because they suspected some undefined connection between the residents and various alleged Colombian and Palestinian terrorist groups. The FBI cited Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project as legal justification for their actions.

Maybe it would be helpful, as a reminder, to include the 35 words presidents say, under oath, before taking on the duties of the highest elected office in the grand US of A:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Are those words meaningless? At this point I’d say they’re about as meaningful as the Nobel peace prize.

By JC

Never trust a man who don’t wash his own dishes.

by lizard

My poetic output has been very limited recently, but tonight the muse descended, and a first draft of a rambling poem came forth. The poem is one of those probably futile attempts to capture disparate elements into some kind of limited cohesion. The tactic I’ve utilized tonight is free association. I have no idea where the first line came from, but sometimes that’s all it takes to spark something. Enjoy! Continue Reading »

by lizard

What probably appears to most as a run-of-the-mill mockery piece on “young” Republicans meeting in Helena from “Intelligent” Discontent is anything but. I suspect that behind the mockery lurks an unspoken fear that the once taken-for-granted youth vote is no longer a sure thing for Democrats. Here is the author claiming (once again) to know what the “problem” is:

While it’s great to include people of all ages in politics, clearly Montana Republicans have a different definition of young than I do.

More significantly, this quote illustrated the problems Republicans will face in the future:

Jessica Sena, chair of the MT Young Republicans, noted, “We need a new skin for an old message…and that’s social media. I mean, really maximizing every single one of the various media sources that are out there.”

That’s precisely what Republicans need to do if they want to become a permanent minority party in the United States and eventually Montana. I would argue the problems Republicans face in districts they haven’t gerrymandered to the point of absurdity has little to do with engaging voters on Twitter or Facebook.

The problem isn’t the media; it’s the message. Opposing health care, immigration reform, marriage equality, livable wages, and a clean environment certainly fires up the base that determines the outcomes of Republican primaries (a base that is decidedly not young), but it’s hardly a message that resonates with young voters.

One of the benefits of focusing on messaging is that actions are left unscrutinized, like Max Baucus muzzling advocates of single payer, Jon Tester killing the Dream Act, and Obama getting embarrassed into adjusting his stance on marriage equality after Biden’s comments.

And don’t get me started on a “clean” enviornment, because there is almost always disappointment from the actions of Democrats in that arena, as highlighted this week by Ochenski calling out Steve Bullock for a terrible decision:

In his first major environmental decision since the legislature ended, Gov. Steve Bullock completely blew it by allowing the transport of highly controversial tar-sands megaloads over Lolo Pass into Montana. Moreover, Bullock did so in spite of a recent federal court ruling that the loads could not impact the Wild and Scenic River Corridor of the Lochsa and Clearwater, a tribal resolution in opposition and a pending lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction to stop the loads. If this is how Bullock begins the environmental legacy of his administration, Montanans are in trouble.

Democrats are a failed political entity, and part of that failure has been the collapse of western leftist opposition to US imperialism. In a great article posted yesterday at Counterpunch, titled The Wishful Thinking Left, Jean Bricmont takes a hard look at the delusionary left and its petition on behalf of the jihadists trying to overthrow Assad in Syria:

The petition sees the events in Syria as an “extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation, and an echo of Iranian, Russian and Chinese movements for freedom.”, but they are careful not to link them to the anti-imperialist governments in Latin America, since the latter stand squarely against foreign interventions and for the respect of national sovereignty.

Finally, what should make anybody think that the “immediate” departure of Bashar al-Assad would lead to a “free, unified and independent Syria”? Aren’t the examples of Iraq and Libya enough to cast some doubts on such optimistic pronouncements?

I suggest reading Bricmont’s whole piece, because it does a great job of exposing the shallow intellectual waters the so-called western left swims in these days. Here is another excerpt that I find interesting:

If such petitions are worse than doing nothing, what should the Left do? First of all, mind its own business, which means struggling at home. This is a lot harder than expressing a meaningless solidarity with people in faraway lands. And struggling for what? Peace through demilitarization of the West, a non-interventionist policy, and putting diplomacy, not military threats, at the center of international relations. Incidentally, a non-interventionist policy is advocated by the libertarians and by the paleoconservative Right. This fact, plus invocation of pre-World War II history (the Spanish civil war, the Munich agreements), is constantly used by the Left to give anti-interventionism a bad name.

How will Democrats message to young people the need to overthrow Syria, or bomb the shit out of Pakistan and Yemen? How will Democrats explain the post-intervention Libya is a fucking disaster, and Iraq is slipping, every day, closer to a full-blown civil war?

The answer is easy. They will avoid talking about those things as much as possible, and use the Republican boogeyman every chance they get to scare young people into voting for their team.

That has been somewhat successful, but with Obama’s second term, and the pathetic attempt of establishment Democrats to message themselves out of their obvious support for an unconstitutional surveillance state, it’s going to take more than mocking Republicans to convince young people that voting Democrat will do a goddamn thing to right the wrongs America’s political establishment has pushed on the rest of the world.

by lizard

In order for Rachel Maddow to cover the inexplicable silence from the FBI regarding the apparent execution of Ibragim Todashev in Florida on May 22nd, she had to first engage in some heavy-handed conspiracy theorist bashing, as seen here:

For some interesting background on the term conspiracy theory, this post (h/t Mark Tokarski) ties it to the CIA’s attempt to control/suppress skepticism regarding the Kennedy assassination, probably one of the most significant events of the 20th century.

The Boston bombing is, for the most part, in our collective rearview mirror. Glaring misinformation about the MIT cop who was killed never got major media traction, and therefore faded from thought, but not, for those interested, from the scary conspiracy petri dish known as the internet.

This article from whowhatwhy.com looks at how badly the initial story of Sean Collier’s death fell apart, and the similarity between this odd cop slaying and the one Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of.

In a few months, we will mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. What could have been, we will never know.

by lizard

I’ve taken up the issue of song lyrics versus lines of verse before, so I was delighted last month to read the poet/critic/pop-culture junkie Michael Robbins’ take on the issue of Pop lyrics and poetry.

It’s not a piece I can really excerpt from, because the brilliance is in the overall breakdown of what makes great song lyrics stick. For those who are interested in the internal mechanisms of craft, it’s a fun and instructive read, and may explain why certain organized patterns of sound get so obnoxiously lodged in our brains.

I offer a link to an article analyzing quality song craft as a contrast to what I’m about to drop. My garage band of one recently performed a little tune to an audience of Lego spacemen, and because there were only plastic spectators, and no recording devices that I am aware of, all I can offer you tonight are the words. Enjoy! Continue Reading »

by lizard

Saudi Arabia hasn’t executed any homosexuals since 2002, when three men were beheaded. The consequences for being gay are mostly flogging and imprisonment.

I came across the above information in a Guardian piece from three years ago about a Saudi Arabian diplomat who asked the US for asylum:

Saudi Arabia may be a miserable place to live, but it’s not very often that a Saudi diplomat seeks refuge in the United States. The last time it happened was in 1994.

At the weekend, though, it emerged that Ali Ahmad Asseri, first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, has applied for asylum in the US on the grounds that he is gay. He says his employers have refused to renew his diplomatic passport – effectively terminating his job – after finding out about his sexuality. He adds they were also unhappy about his friendship with a Jewish woman.

The Saudis are reportedly demanding his return to the kingdom, where Asseri fears he would be killed “in broad daylight”.

I mention this because Saudi Arabia’s domestic suppression of their citizens subjects’ sexual orientation will not be making headlines any time soon.

But what is making headlines, and eliciting a response from the president, is Russia’s domestic policy:

President Barack Obama said Friday that he did not favor boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, rejecting calls from LGBT activists to do so over a new law banning so-called homosexual propaganda.

“I want to say very clearly. I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics,” he said at a news conference. But he added that he hoped gay and lesbian American athletes would bring home medals and reiterated his opposition to the law.

“If Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, then it will probably make their team weaker,” he said.

A law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” and the law is written so vaguely that many fear that it will be used to crack down against gays and lesbians broadly. Since foreigners who violate the law can potentially be deported, many fear LGBT athletes from other countries who are competing in the Olympics may be targeted.

“Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation than you’ve been seeing in Russia,” Obama said.

It’s too bad time, resources, and energy will be spent on boycotting the winter Olympics in Sochi because of this. Well-intentioned activists will be playing directly into the geopolitics lurking behind this issue, and the geopolitics is absolutely NOT concerned with improving equality for the LGBT community in Russia.

by lizard

The US war against drugs has been costly, stupid, and completely ineffective. The drug war also exposes how criminal the criminal justice system has become; asset forfeiture turns innocent until proven guilty on its head, for example, and a few days ago it was disclosed that the DEA has been using NSA data, and then backtracking to hide this fact.

There was a recent bright spot: Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a piece titled Why I changed my mind on weed:

Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called “Weed.” The title “Weed” may sound cavalier, but the content is not.

I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning.

Long before I began this project, I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled “Why I would Vote No on Pot.”

Well, I am here to apologize.

I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.

Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.”

They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works. Take the case of Charlotte Figi, who I met in Colorado. She started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.

I have seen more patients like Charlotte first hand, spent time with them and come to the realization that it is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana.

We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.

Yes, we have, and it’s nice to hear someone in a somewhat influential position acknowledge that. Remember, Gupta was being seriously considered by Obama after his first election to be the US Surgeon General. Maybe if Gupta is in an apologizing mood, he can also apologize to Michael Moore for his false comments regarding Sicko.

Locally, the Missoulian recently reported on Jason Washington breaking his post-trial silence:

Jason Washington broke his post-trial media silence Tuesday in a phone interview with the Missoulian from a private prison in Shelby.

“It’s been a blatant, mean, ugly attack,” he said.

His medical marijuana business, Big Sky Medical Marijuana Dispensary, was one of the largest operations in the state, which also made it appealing to federal investigators, he said.

And in targeting such a high-profile community member, he contended, prosecutors were able to shut the door on Missoula’s flourishing medical marijuana industry.

“The simple fact is there are still dispensaries in Butte,” Washington said. “They said this is against federal law … then why are there still dispensaries in the state of Montana and 18 other states?”

Washington also said this:

“My understanding was the federal government would only come after people who were in clear violation of state law,” Washington explained.

The reason why Jason Washington thought this is because that is what Eric Holder led people to believe back in 2009 with this memo which states, in part, that:

As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.

Unfortunately, Holder’s DoJ is a cesspool of injustice, and even in the state of Washington, where voters are trying to do that whole democracy thing by voting to legalize cannabis, the raids continue:

In a series of coordinated raids, federal agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided marijuana dispensaries in Washington State on Wednesday, despite the fact the state legalized the substance last November.

DEA spokeswoman Jodie Underwood confirmed the operation to The Associated Press and said all search warrants had been executed by Wednesday evening. Underwood did not go into detail about the raids.

Voters may vote, and doctors can cite all the evidence they want regarding the absurdity of maintaining the schedule I designation for cannabis. None of that is going to make a difference. Why?

I’m afraid we, as a nation, have gone too far down the police state path to turn back now. The drug war has been one of the main justifications for militarizing the police over the last few decades, and sucking up federal dollars has entrenched that disturbing trend, as exemplified by Radley Balko’s book, Rise of the Warrior Cop.

In a piece put out by the Daily Beast earlier this year, Nick Gillespie writes about how Obama transformed himself from The Choom Gang to Drug Warrior. Here is the introduction:

While a high school student at Honolulu’s elite Punahou School, Barack Obama was a high-flying member of a pot-smoking, party-hearty crew that called itself “the Choom Gang.” As biographer David Maraniss revealed in last year’s Barack Obama: The Story the future president “had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!,’ and took an extra hit.”

In his current trip to meet with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, Obama will once again be talking about illegal drugs and interceptions—and he will almost certainly continue his long habit of bogarting other people’s joints. As CNN summarizes it, one of the “key issues” of the trip is to strengthen efforts to stop the flow of pot, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other drugs from Mexico into the United States.

Despite thinly sourced stories by Obama boosters that the president in his second term “will pivot to the drug war” that he privately considers a “failure,” there’s every reason to believe any new initiatives coming out of this Mexico trip will disappoint the liberals, libertarians, and smattering of conservatives who took Barack Obama seriously when he questioned longstanding drug policies.

Yeah, anyone who still takes the president seriously when he opens his mouth is a fool.

by lizard

Hey Gary!

I thought about writing you a letter today, because I think there might be an exciting opportunity for you. I know some people think you are a terrible, horrible, gun-crazed fanatic who would exploit the violent death of children to further your agenda, but I think that’s an unfair characterization.

These tragedies get consumed and spit back at us in all sorts of awful ways by the media and those obscene carneys referred to as “politicians”. Your zealous advocacy is a convenient target for those on the other side of the political gridiron, people who need people like you, so they don’t have to think about their guy blowing up children in Yemen.

The opportunity I envision is an op-ed where you remain steadfast in your vigorous defense of the right to take down the federal government through force of arms own guns, but, and this is just a suggestion, make one small acknowledgement: saying shit like this is unacceptable:

“When the top AP Nazis end up floating face down in the river, they will think twice about f***ing with real Americans.”

“We need to track down and publish the names and addresses of AP executives, photographs of their children and the routes they take to school.”

I get being frustrated with media (like allowing an intern a front page story where she can’t even get basic facts right and conflates two unrelated stories), but these reported threats against AP reporters for attempting to access what use to be public information about concealed carry permit holders, threats that reference innocent children, that is clearly over the line.

So take a stand, Gary, and show your detractors that you possess a smidgen of reasonable awareness that some things are just wrong.

—Liz

by JC

stasi-2-205pxThis will be a very long post. I would break it up into manageable chunks, but I fear that having to defend my writings from entrenched stalwarts of the status quo in the democratic party would sidetrack this post.

There is an intersection of events and ideas that together lead to a much darker conclusion than addressing them individually. It is no secret that Edward Snowden has unleashed a firestorm of debate with his revelations about the state of surveillance in America, and around the world. That topic alone is far too large for one post to address, but it has unveiled some interesting material to work with.

The photo to the right is from protest signs being carried around various protests in Germany this summer, organized against the collusion of the American and German spy networks.

President Jimmy Carter rocked the foreign media last month with a statement he made in Atlanta at a conference on U.S.-German relations:

“America has no functioning democracy at this moment”

The quote was not covered by any major American media, but was reported in Germany’s Der Spiegel. Carter further went on to show support for Edward Snowden:

“‘… I think the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far,’ he said.

‘I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that [Snowden’s] bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.’

Asked to elaborate, he said, ‘I think the American people deserve to know what their Congress is doing.'”

Continue Reading »

by lizard

Is it absurd to reference the STASI when absorbing and responding to Snowden’s NSA disclosures? According to this freelance Hollywood reporter, yes:

Is the National Security Agency the modern US equivalent of East Germany’s notorious secret police, the Stasi? asked Charles Lane in the Washington Post. The Stasi analogy is frequently used by activists in Germany and the United States who defend NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but as German Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out last week, it’s an absurd exaggeration.

The Stasi aggressively spied on citizens to detect and punish even “the pettiest deviations” from official Communist dogma. In that true “surveillance state,” the Stasi’s sole goal was to suppress dissent and keep an unelected government in power.

Snowden’s revelations have sparked a useful debate about the trade-off of privacy and security, but even if we adjust NSA practices, the reality is that our country–and all democracies–will continue to engage in spying and surveillance.

If Snowden and his camp don’t understand the absurdity of their Stasi hyperbole, perhaps the truth will become clearer “with each day that he spends in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

I think there are good arguments against using the STASI analogy, one of them being this: it makes people defensive and/or condescending in their dismissals and attacks, and provides a convenient target for deflection.

In the above quote, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a good example of a convenient target for deflection.

From what you ask? From two key events in this (still emerging) scandal:

The humiliation of Evo Morales’ plane being forced to land.

and

The revocation of Edward Snowden’s passport.

Those two events were the main factors that forced Russia to do something, and temporary asylum was that something.

The status of Snowden has been the mainstream thrust because it’s a tantalizing drama, and that sells, not further nuances of the surveillance state.

I wouldn’t call yesterday’s new disclosure about collusion between the DEA and the NSA to be a nuance, though:

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

If we wait for a future time when the hyperbolic terms some of use to rattle complacency are strictly applicable, it will be too late.

by lizard

This week’s poetry post was initially going to be about rape culture. First, I read this Truthout piece breaking down Robin Thicke’s rape anthem, Blurred Lines. Then, I finally got around to reading a poem that has been going viral: Patricia Lockwood’s “Rape Joke” published by The Awl. It’s damn good and everyone should read it.

But then I got to thinking about the big shift of interfacing with written language—book to screen—and though I’ve got my shelves packed with books, there is something to be said for the immediacy of what the screen can offer.

All this to say I wrote a poem today that I would like to share, partly because it emerged from the back and forth of the last few days. And it employs language that operates on different levels, which is fun to pull off, if you can. Enjoy!

*

CHICKEN SOUP

marrow of speech
leaks like sun on snow
the clapper shushes the bell
the bar so low
we can hear peanut shells
cracking like insects
under foot
crack of failed resistance
against violent pressure—
put these creatures
out of their misery…

out of their minds
the flock tries
to detect the fox
seeing signs of his prowling
in every bug-buzzed movement
of grass
but they ignore the latch
unfastened by the farmer…

last crack scatters the crows
from the mighty oak

marrow of bone
makes a delicious soup

—William Skink

by lizard

Sure, the NSA may be systematically violating the 4th amendment of the US constitution, but according to Don Pogreba, the REAL problem is The Politics of Disreason:

I’ve been thinking today about the danger of disreason in American politics. Dis, meaning “ to treat with disrespect or contempt” and reason, meaning “to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.” It seems we’re awash in it.

Two Montana posts, one from the right and one from the left, perfectly illustrate the politics of disreason. One, from the dark money Watchdog organization, darkly hints that the implementation of Common Core education standards will lead to dangerous data mining of children. The other, from 4and20 blackbirds, uses a source who retracted his own claims and apologized for them to suggest that the Obama campaign used “ National Stasi Intelligence style” tactics to win the 2012 election.

Don positions himself as being the thinker who is reasonably anchored to logic for his two-prong attack against political disreason, which he finds on the right, as exemplified by the Watchdog, and on the left, as exemplified by JC’s post slamming Jim Messina for whoring himself out to UK Tories.

To deflect from the broader point of JC’s post, Don zeroes in on this source because the author recanted specific assertions regarding Obama’s 2012 campaign, Facebook, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The broader points about Jim Messina and the 2012 campaign are not crazy, logic-defying assertions. I wrote a post last March, for example, about Jim Messina, Dark Money, and MT Democrats that included a link to a ProPublica piece about Obama campaign volunteers feeding info into a database.

But crazy is the brush Don is painting broad strokes with as he continues exposing the REAL danger of disreason:

What both share in common is an almost pathological willingness to simultaneously ignore objective evidence and the conventions of logical reasoning to make wild, unsupported claims that fit anti-government and/or anti-establishment narratives.

Of course, it’s not just these sites. You can hardly search the Internet without finding someone who claims that President Obama was born in Kenya, that 9/11 was masterminded by FDR to cover up his involvement in Pearl Harbor, or that autism is caused by vaccines.

We’re swimming in a sea of not only wrong information, but information so easily discredited by logic and evidence that it distracts us from substantive discussions and engages a growing segment of the population in politics in a way that is more destructive than democratic. Even those who should be models spew this nonsense on the national stage.

Non-sense being spewed, hmmm, that reminds me of Obama’s recent speechifying about the economy. It’s like his role is to perform a pathological willingness to ignore objective evidence that the economic recovery is fake.

Also a part of performing his role: Obama defends Summers as he mulls Fed pick:

President Barack Obama defended Lawrence Summers on Wednesday in the face of concerns by fellow Democrats that the president may name his former economic adviser as chairman of the Federal Reserve, lawmakers said.

Obama praised Summers at a closed-door meeting with Democratic members of the House of Representatives, rejecting complaints, largely from liberals, that Summers had not been aggressive enough in seeking economic stimulus funds from Congress in 2009, the lawmakers said.

Here’s another great performance: because stopping and frisking the grist of colored youth has been so successful for NYC, that must be the reason Obama recently declared Ray Kelly’s performance has been “extraordinary”, fueling speculation Kelly could replace Napolitano as head of Homeland Security:

Sen. Chuck Schumer has been lobbying for NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to replace Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano when she steps down, and on Tuesday, President Obama added fuel to the rumors. “Ray Kelly’s obviously done an extraordinary job in New York,” Obama said in an interview with Univision’s New York City affiliate. “And the federal government partners a lot with New York, because obviously, our concerns about terrorism often times are focused on big-city targets, and I think Ray Kelly’s one of the best there is.” He added, “Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if he’s not I’d want to know about it, because obviously he’d be very well qualified for the job.”

Clearly, I’m just trying to deflect from the danger posed by disreason. Let’s get back to Intelligent Discontent:

None of this is new, of course. We had John Birchers in the 1950s (and still do) claiming the UN and fluoride were conspiracies, Arkansas troopers claiming that Vince Foster was murdered, and those who claimed that HIV/AIDS was a western conspiracy to depopulate Africa.

But the Internet has magnified this nonsense and given it a cancerous growth pattern. It’s just not one farmer with an amusingly paranoid sign on his land about the UN; it’s a whole sub culture of mutually reinforcing bile and delusion. Look no farther than the comment field on any news story and you’ll see demonstrably false, easily fact-checked falsehoods pollute productive conversation. What could contribute to the marketplace of ideas devolves into a scrum of name calling and half-truths.

What’s worse is that most of these ideas are cloaked in a pseudo-certainty that would make a 14th century alchemist blush.

The premise of the marketplace of idea is that, in competition, the best ideas will emerge, bettering and educating society as a whole, but I’m not sure that premise holds any longer, when we’re in a Wal-Mart of terrible, clearance-rack ideas and everyone owns a free megaphone.

I’m not calling for censorship. I’m not calling for government regulation of speech. I am, however, asking if perhaps we can’t show a little restraint.

This call for restraint is incredibly disingenuous when you consider Don can’t even hold himself to his own declaration of disengagement:

4and20 blackbirds used to be the best, most thought-provoking, and most unique political blog in the state. I miss it, but no amount of my disappointment will bring it back to what I enjoyed—and the writers there today certainly aren’t under any obligation to meet my expectations.

But there’s a lot of Internet out there, and interesting and unique voices writing about politics in the state and the nation. Those are the sources I’ll be engaging with, arguing with, and learning from in the future.

So why continue to engage? I think Don provides the answer in this seemingly odd turn from calling for restraint to admiring radicals:

I admire radicals. I admire those who challenge the norms of their society and uncover unpleasant truths or force to see the world in a new way. But my admiration is limited to those radicals who can prove their claims, support them against often fierce scrutiny. Retreating into sophistic dodges or convenient conspiracy theories is certainly not the same thing.

I was talking the other day with a friend about the WTO protests that rocked the U.S. in the 1990s. Sure, they used radical tactics and challenged authority, but they also marshaled an impressive array of statistics, anecdotes, and economic evidence to make their case. It wasn’t enough to just be loud or just be radical. They made a case using reason as well as political theater.

This curious example of admirable radicalism exposes, IMHO, the need to absorb and co-opt the raw discontent that isn’t always depicted so charitably by partisans like Don.

That said, I am happy to see that the opposition to the WTO is acceptable radicalism, and if Don was moved by the impressive array of statistics, anecdotes, and economic evidence of the WTO opposition, then maybe I can look forward to a post about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, because when I plug that in as a search query at ID, I get nothing.

I’m getting side-tracked again. Luckily, Don brings it all back to disreason:

I’m not sure that I have any solution to offer beyond the trite. Before we post a link or share a juicy story online, maybe we can all ask ourselves to do a little verification and research our claims. Instead of couching every perceived slight in the language of totalitarianism or the death of the Constitution, perhaps we can focus on policy and solutions.

The politics of disreason, whether left or right, drive the kind of cynicism and disinterest that is the root of the real problem of American politics today. If I permit myself a bit of hyperbole, it’s those elements that truly pose the risk of losing democratic governance.

I don’t know. But it has to get better. The energy that’s being expended in these discussions certainly isn’t helping.

Cynicism and disinterest are byproducts of systemic corruption, and THAT is the real problem of American politics today.

by lizard

Toying with terror alerts is one of those issues Democrats used to criticize Bush back when he was doing it. From the link:

In these perilous days, we must be ready to think the unthinkable. No, I don’t mean the possibility of a catastrophic terrorist attack. After 9/11, that’s all too easy to imagine. No, I’m talking about a thought that even now seldom forces its way into respectable conversation: the quite reasonable suspicion that the Bush Administration orchestrates its terror alerts and arrests to goose the GOP’s poll numbers.

Now, I’m a respectable columnist. I don’t want to draw rolled eyes. But think about it.

The 18 months prior to the 2004 presidential election witnessed a barrage of those ridiculous color-coded terror alerts, quashed-plot headlines and breathless press conferences from Administration officials. Warnings of terror attacks over the Christmas 2003 holidays, warnings over summer terror attacks at the 2004 political conventions, then a whole slew of warnings of terror attacks to disrupt the election itself. Even the timing of the alerts seemed to fall with odd regularity right on the heels of major political events. One of Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge’s terror warnings came two days after John Kerry picked John Edwards as his running mate; another came three days after the end of the Democratic convention.

For a president who, in too many ways, is presiding over Bush’s 4th term, it makes sense this terror tool would also be deployed by Obama. From yesterday’s NYT: Qaeda Messages Prompt U.S. Terror Warning:

The United States intercepted electronic communications this week among senior operatives of Al Qaeda, in which the terrorists discussed attacks against American interests in the Middle East and North Africa, American officials said Friday.

The intercepts and a subsequent analysis of them by American intelligence agencies prompted the United States to issue an unusual global travel alert to American citizens on Friday, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks by operatives of Al Qaeda and their associates beginning Sunday through the end of August. Intelligence officials said the threat focused on the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, which has been tied to plots to blow up American-bound cargo and commercial flights.

At Moon of Alabama, this warning doesn’t pass the smell test. The blogger, b, points out that just a month ago, we were being told how terrorists were changing their methods due to the NSA leaks. Here’s a Huffington Post article peddling that line of bullshit:

U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to salvage their surveillance of al-Qaida and other terrorists who are working frantically to change how they communicate after a National Security Agency contractor leaked details of two NSA spying programs. It’s an electronic game of cat-and-mouse that could have deadly consequences if a plot is missed or a terrorist operative manages to drop out of sight.

This terror alert, for some reason, will apparently expire at the end of August. Should we be expecting something to happen this month?

Be afraid, citizens. And be grateful Big Brother is watching out for you.

By JC

Who didn’t see this coming? Obama campaign guru is going to work for the conservatives in the U.K to help elect Tory David Cameron beat the Labour party. I’m sure that’ll really help him if he decides to work on the ’16 dem presidency campaign.

Of course, who better than Obama’s right hand man to help the Tories learn about “big data:”

“The video [below] – in which Mr Messina talks about the role of Big Data in the 2012 election campaign – would support that. He says that data is “the best avenue to the truth” and that he used it “to inform almost every major decision we did in the campaign”.

Voters should expect a “personalised” campaign in the run-up to 2015 – i.e. one that is, based on data about them, personally tailored to encourage a vote for David Cameron.”

“Data became the most important thing I did… it’s how I spent a billion dollars.”

I wonder just what else Messina is going to counsel the conservatives on? Data mining, National Stasi Intelligence style, for when legal public data sets aren’t quite good enough to get the job done?

As there is no hiding from the NSA and it’s tentacles of data mining techniques, politics will no longer be about old fashioned glad-handing. It will be just another extension of the surveillance state.

And here’s what a Daily Kos writer had to say about Messina:

“Personally, I view Jim Messina as a traitor for joining ranks with British Conservatives… Jim Messina is the closest thing that our generation will ever have to a Benedict Arnold-like figure.”

Ah, sweet politics. Just like watching a black widow eat her mate on a rainy day…

And nice to know that Jimmy boy checked in with his old boss before taking the big money new job:

“Messina checked with the White House before accepting the contract, according to a White House official who asked not to be identified because of diplomatic sensitivities. The office emphasized that Messina’s decision to work for Cameron does not represent “any kind of a signal from the president” regarding Britain’s future election.”

Right…




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