Archive for April, 2014

by lizard

Let’s not kid ourselves, Donald Sterling received a lifetime ban from the NBA for his racist remarks because the league would have been significantly impacted, economically, had Adam Silver not taken a strong stand. Because the threat of a player boycott was very real, and could have derailed the playoffs, a wealthy racist has been punished for his racism.

Punishing an individual racist may feel good, but it doesn’t address institutional racism. Institutional racism is much more difficult to punish, especially when there is an economic interest in ignoring or downplaying systemic racism.

Take the apartheid state of Israel, for example. Politicians are so terrified of institutions like the Anti-Defemation League that exist to squash any hint of criticism against Israel that to even be caught using the “A” word is a major transgression, something John Kerry found out recently:

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has apologised for warning that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” if it did not reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, following a barrage of criticism in America.

In a statement, Kerry hit back at what he described as “partisan political” attacks against him, while stating that in retrospect he would have chosen a different word.

He said that apartheid was “a word best left out of the debate [in the US]” despite the fact that there have been similar warnings from senior Israeli politicians.

Israel’s stranglehold on US politicians is sad. The peace process is a joke and Israel absolutely is an apartheid state. From the link:

Facing hysterical outrage from apologists of the Middle East’s only state to have never joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Kerry quickly cowered and walked back his statement, saying he chose the “wrong wording”. His retraction echoed Obama’s own statements on the issue, when he came out against “injecting a term like apartheid” that is “historically inaccurate.”

Of course, Israel has been an apartheid state since 1967. How else to describe a socioeconomic system in the occupied territories under Israeli sovereignty where residents of one ethnicity are subject to military law while residents of another to civilian law? Where there is complete separation of land and roads, which a principal architect of the settler colonies in the occupied territories (and admirer of South Africa’s racist segregation) modeled after the Bantustans he saw in that country?

Inside the Green Line, Israel can make the dubious claim that it’s discriminatory laws like the Prevention of Infiltration Law, Citizenship and Entry Law and Acceptance to Communities Law, as well as institutions such as the Jewish National Fund, do not actually constitute the crime of apartheid, but merely legalized discrimination and racial supremacy.

It would be nice if US politicians weren’t such slobbering lapdogs of a racist nation like Israel. The Israel/Palestine conflict is the epicenter of unrest in the Middle East, and if the peace process remains the joke that it is, the inherent violence of Israel’s institutional racism will continue to ripple out from the Holy Land.

by lizard

Two days before Earth Day, Ochenski called out Steve Bullock for his secret logging deal, describing the criticism of Bullock’s move “well-deserved flak”. Indeed. From Ochenski’s column:

Gov. Steve Bullock recently announced his recommendation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that some 5.1 million acres of Montana’s national forest lands be nominated for expedited logging under the new Farm Bill’s Sec. 8204.

However, when questioned as to the basis for his decision, which will affect virtually everyone in the forested regions of our state, it turns out there were only seven people involved, no public notice, and no opportunity for public review and comment. For a governor who campaigned on – and frequently boasts of – open government and transparency, it’s tough to align Bullock’s words with his actions on this important issue.

Steve Kelly, a former congressional candidate (and 4&20 regular) decided not to let Bullock’s lapse of principle go unchallenged:

A Bozeman man on Tuesday sued Gov. Steve Bullock and some top administration officials, accusing them of violating the state constitution by nominating 5.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land for logging without giving the public a chance to participate.

Steve Kelly, a Bozeman artist and former congressional candidate, filed the complaint in the Gallatin County District Court. He also named Bullock’s natural resources adviser Tim Baker, state Natural Resources and Conservation Director John Tubbs and state forester Bob Harrington in the lawsuit.

He contended that Bullock and the other officials violated the public’s right to know and the public’s right to participate in the Montana Constitution.

The idea that state politicians should be constrained by pesky documents like our state constitution is probably a few generations away from being expunged from our collective consciousness. The trade agreements currently being negotiated behind closed doors will install a legal framework essentially diluting the laws and regulations of nations until they become meaningless.

Not surprisingly, Democrats are once again selling out their base, especially labor. The Transatlantic Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are trade agreements that will empower multinational corporations to supersede the interests of nation-states. Obviously if this was widely known by the public, it would be widely opposed.

Congress had been seeking “fast-track” status for these negotiations because they know the reaction will be overwhelmingly negative if the public actually finds out what is being negotiated. Now that awareness about this congressional fast-tracking has leaked, clearly there’s only one thing to do—re-brand fast-track:

The Democratic Party has responded to the resistance against ramming through new trade agreements by giving the process a new name. “Fast-track” has been rebranded as “smart-track” and, voilà, new packaging is supposed to make us forget the rotten hulk underneath the thin veneer.

Don’t be fooled. The Obama administration and its Senate enablers are nowhere near giving up on its two gigantic trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Because the stealthy “fast track” route — special rules speeding trade legislation through Congress with little opportunity for debate and no possibility of amendments — is the only way these corporate wish lists can be enacted, a “rebranding” is in order.

The new chair of the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, earlier this month, in a speech given to apparel-industry corporate executives, announced his intention to replace the “fast track” process with a “smart track” process. That is noteworthy because the Finance Committee has responsibility in the Senate for trade legislation. It also noteworthy because Senator Wyden has voted to approve the last five U.S. “free trade” agreements, going back to 2005.

Although the Transatlantic Partnership being negotiated between the United States and the European Union receives less attention than the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, neither has much chance of passing without special fast-track authority. Should Congress agree to grant the White House fast-track authority, the Obama administration would negotiate a deal and submit the text for approval to Congress under rules that would prohibit any amendments or changes, allow only a limited time for debate, and require a straight yes or no vote.

None other than the previous U.S. trade representative, Ron Kirk, said the Trans-Pacific Partnership has to be secret because if people knew what was in it, it would never pass. We should take him at his word.

How can Democrats convince people they are worth supporting when they repeatedly pull this kind of shit? I don’t know, but I’m sick and tired of reading about betrayal after betrayal.

by lizard

First, as a person who lives in Missoula, I’d like to express my condolences to the parents of Diren Dede, the 17 year old German exchange student who was killed early Sunday morning in a Missoula garage. I’m especially sorry that the manner in which Diren was killed ensures this case will receive some intense media scrutiny as word starts spreading about what has been alleged to have transpired in that garage.

The official complaint was released earlier today and everyone absolutely needs to read it.

When I wrote this post yesterday, nothing was known about what happened. That has changed, significantly.

According to the complaint, Markus Kaarma and his wife, Janelle Pflager (who should also be criminally charged) essentially set a trap to catch kids they suspected of a previous break-in. They left their garage door partially open and used a purse as bait.

Markus also potentially established pre-meditation by making comments to his Great Clips hair stylist. The statement by the stylist alleges Markus Kaarma responded to her obligatory “how are you doing” small talk with this:

“I’m just waiting to shoot some fucking kid.”

When Diren took the bait it was the culmination of careful planning. First, a sensor in the driveway went off, then a second sensor in the garage. This alerted the couple (who had been waiting for days, according to the hair stylist) to check their live security camera feed.

What they saw on the screen was someone in their garage. Janelle took screen shots of the live camera feed with her phone while her husband exited the front door with his shotgun, instead of calling 911.

What Markus hears coming from the garage is a sound he describes as “metal on metal” which makes him scared this person may exit the garage to harm him. According to the complaint, “he stated he did not see anyone and did not communicate with anyone prior to the shooting.

Then he shot his shotgun four times in a spraying motion toward the darkened interior of the garage. Two shots hit and killed Diren.

Markus Kaarma is now facing charges of deliberate homicide. It’s unclear if charges will be brought against Janelle Pflager.

Now that this tragedy has happened, there will be the inevitable backlash. State Rep. Ellie Hill (D-HD 94) has already stated intentions to push for a legislative fix on Twitter:

I submitted a bill draft today to repeal the castle doctrine in Montana. Enough is enough. #MTPol

I understand the desire to make it less easy to justify using lethal force. It’s a position I agree with. That said, the thought of Montana Democrats using their limited political capital on this issue makes me cringe. It’s political poison, and a distraction to more important issues, like expanding Medicaid.

Let the Castle Doctrine defense try to justify the lethal force used by Markus Kaarma. It’s a case the Montana Supreme court should get a crack at.

by lizard

Last night, a 17 year old kid was shot and killed after breaking in to the garage of a home up Grant Creek:

Police responded to a house in the 2600 block of Deer Canyon Court – in the Grant Creek neighborhood – shortly before 12:30 a.m. Sunday after receiving a report of a shooting.

On arrival, officers found the male and female residents in front of the house, with a 17-year-old male in their garage with a gunshot wound.

The male resident of the house reportedly found the intruder in his garage after an alarm went off, and shot him with a shotgun. The victim eventually died from the injuries.

However this ultimately went down, the result is a teenager died, and that’s tragic. Now cue the commentary.

I don’t know how I feel about this story. With my recent decision to purchase a handgun, I’ve brought the lethal capacity to deliver death to a would-be intruder into my home. I’m still not altogether comfortable with that, and I keep the gun in our new safe while storing the ammo separately.

I’ve also been that punk-ass kid breaking into garages.

When I was a teenager in the late 90’s, I went out on a handful of late-night excursions to prowl suburbia with a few mischievous friends. We looked for houses where residents had accidentally left open their garages. We called it “garage hopping”.

Snatching beers was primarily what motivated our hooliganism, but really we were just bored suburban brats looking to get a few rushes of adrenaline from doing something we knew we shouldn’t be doing.

We got chased one time I remember, and the guy was pissed. He got in his car and drove the streets looking for us as we hid like rabbits in the bushes. Looking back, it was incredibly stupid, and I still feel guilty about some of the idiotic shit we pulled.

With last night’s shooting death of a teenager, there is only speculation. We have no idea the circumstances that led to this deadly confrontation. My parents actually live in this neighborhood, and they said there’s been talk of multiple break-ins lately, whatever that may mean.

Here’s more from the initial report:

Police arrested and booked Markus Kaarma, the 29-year-old male resident of the house, on suspicion of deliberate homicide. No charges have yet been filed, however.

Police Sgt. Travis Welsh said it will be up to the Missoula County Attorney’s Office to determine what charges, if any, will be filed against Kaarma.

Welsh said the incident remains under investigation. There is no indication that the intruder was armed, he said.

However, “we wouldn’t arrest someone without probable cause a crime had been committed,” he added.

It’s way too early in this case to be able to say much of anything. As the case moves through the criminal justice system, individuals who work within the system will have to make decisions about whether or not this case will be prosecuted, and how. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

by lizard

A couple of stories caught my attention regarding wealthy people and the worlds they inhabit, worlds very different from the ones we little people live in.

First, the White House recently outreached the next generation of wealth, as reported in the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times. The article offers a fascinating peek into the exclusive access offered to the offspring of billionaires:

On a crisp morning in late March, an elite group of 100 young philanthropists and heirs to billionaire family fortunes filed into a cozy auditorium at the White House.

Their name tags read like a catalog of the country’s wealthiest and most influential clans: Rockefeller, Pritzker, Marriott. They were there for a discreet, invitation-only summit hosted by the Obama administration to find common ground between the public sector and the so-called next-generation philanthropists, many of whom stand to inherit billions in private wealth.

“Moon shots!” one administration official said, kicking off the day on an inspirational note to embrace the White House as a partner and catalyst for putting their personal idealism into practice.

The money involved is estimated to be around 30 TRILLION dollars, nearly twice the entire GDP of America, so it’s no wonder political operatives are courting them while they’re young:

Policy experts and donors recognize that there’s no better time than now to empower young philanthropists. Professionals in the field, citing an Accenture report from 2012, estimate that more than $30 trillion in wealth will pass from baby boomers to younger generations by around 2050. At the same time, the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy (no relation to this reporter) and the nonprofit consulting group 21/64 have concluded in a recent study on philanthropic giving that heirs are becoming involved in family foundations at an earlier age — specifically in their 20s and 30s — and imprinting them with the social values of their generation.

And what are their social values? One part of this invitation-only conference was about human trafficking. I’m assuming it was about stopping it, despite the unintentional creepiness of this quote:

A freshman at Georgetown University, Mr. Gage was among the presenters at a breakout session, titled “Combating Human Trafficking,” that attracted a notable group of his peers. “The person two seats away from me was a Marriott,“ he said. “And when I told her about trafficking, right away she was like, ‘Uh, yeah, I want to do that.’ ”

If I was there, I’d be telling these youngsters about the child prostitution ring uncovered in Nebraska, known as the Franklin case. Here’s a brief summary:

The scandal centered around the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union, which was created to serve a poor black neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska. During the 70s and 80s, its manager, a man named Larry King (not the talk show host), ran the Franklin as a Ponzi scheme and looted over $40 million, which he spent on an opulent lifestyle and Republican fundraising. King sang the National Anthem at the Republican convention in 1984 and served on several committees of the National Black Republican Council. He had a townhouse in Washington, DC, where he threw parties with many prominent guests. In August 1988, he threw a $100,000 party at the Republican convention, and appeared in a video in which he and Jack Kemp urged blacks to vote for George H. W. Bush. In November 1988, his Ponzi scheme crashed and the Franklin was shut down by the National Credit Union Association and the FBI.

All run-of-the-mill scandal stuff, and uncontroversial in the basic facts, except that as King was climbing into the upper levels of the national Republican hierarchy, Omaha was boiling over with rumors that he was also running a pedophile ring, pandering children out to rich and powerful men in Omaha, even flying the children to Washington, Los Angeles and New York for orgiastic, abusive parties with even richer and more powerful men.

I’ll leave it at that for now, though the rabbit hole on this one goes deep. Instead there are recent allegations cropping up of powerful Hollywood men involved in drugging and raping underage boys. The main allegations center on Bryan Singer, most known for directing one of the X-Men movies. Here’s the gist:

Singer stands accused of luring the plaintiff to private gatherings at the M&C Estate in Encino, Calif., and the Paul Mitchell Estate in Hawaii; there, he allegedly plied the then-17-year-old Egan with cocaine, alcohol, weed, and professional enticements, such as modeling gigs, commercial appearances, and the chance to act in an X-Men movie. The suit says that Singer was one of several powerful Hollywood men who preyed on fresh-faced kids with dreams of making it big. Also accused of frequenting the parties were Marc Rector-Collins, former chairman of the Digital Entertainment Network (where Neuman works), and Chad Shackley, a DEN co-founder. (Rector-Collins, a registered sex offender in Florida, pleaded guilty in 2004 to charges of transporting minors across state lines to have sex.) Egan and other underage actors were added to the DEN payroll, receiving $1,500 a week for “legitimate work” and $600 a week for more nebulous services, the suit claims. A few of the ghastlier allegations:

  • At one point, when Egan resisted sexual contact, Rector-Collins allegedly threatened him with a firearm and then locked him in a gun safe in the master bedroom closet.
  • A nude, intoxicated Egan was allegedly passed between Singer and Rector-Collins in a hot tub and subjected to various sex acts. When he refused to perform oral sex on Singer, the older man allegedly forced Egan’s head underwater until he submitted and then forcibly sodomized him.
  • The adults at the M&C Estate allegedly “strenuously pressured” the teenaged boys to ingest “copious amounts” of alcohol and drugs, and “surreptitiously administered” what they didn’t coerce. The boys were told that their predators “controlled Hollywood” and would crush their acting dreams if left unhappy. Egan claims that he in particular was warned that he and his family would be “eliminated” if he spoke up and that his phone was being monitored.

Asked why the plaintiff was bringing charges now, 15 years after the alleged harassment, Egan’s lawyer Jeff Herman denied that the timing had anything to do with the release of Singer’s latest movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, on May 23. The statute of limitations in Hawaii runs out on April 24, he noted. (The suits were originally filed in Hawaii rather than California because the Aloha State “temporarily suspends the statute of limitations on sex abuse claims brought in civil cases.”) And in a press conference Monday, Egan furnished more explanation: According to the Daily News, Egan told reporters that he’d found a trauma therapist and a lawyer he trusted to “protect” him, and he wanted to bring his tormentors to justice. “I wouldn’t wish it on any of my worst enemies, to go through what I went through as a child,” he said. Also, Egan says that when he and his mother originally brought the abuse to the L.A. Police Department in 1999, they did nothing.

The timing may also have to do with a documentary in the works about sex abuse in Hollywood.

That the L.A. Police department would do nothing about allegations involving wealthy, powerful people is easy to believe, because when you’re wealthy, you can viciously beat your girlfriend, hitting her 117 times during a 30 minute beating as seen on security camera footage and avoid doing any time in jail:

Indian-origin internet advertising mogul Gurbaksh Chahal has escaped jail despite beating and kicking his girlfriend 117 times, according to a media report.

Chahal, 31, pleaded misdemeanor, domestic violence and battery charges last week, dodging 45 felony counts for the videotaped 30-minute beating of his girlfriend, The Huffington Post reported.

The CEO of RadiumOne – a Silicon Valley company that focusses on real-time advertising across web, mobile and Facebook – faces no jail time.

If you’re wealthy you can also rape your 3 year old daughter and only get probation because a judge thinks you wouldn’t ‘fare well in prison’.

These are some horrifying examples of how class warfare is as much a matter of who doesn’t go to prison as who does, like poor minorities disproportionally incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses, an issue Obama put some lipstick on recently.

Since there may be a few cells in American prisons freed up by Obama’s election-year window dressing, there are plenty of wealthy criminals who deserve to be locked up that should take their place.

by lizard

Information insurgent is not a term I’d choose for myself, but that is what it sometimes feels like. The crush of newspeak can lead to one feeling under siege.

Twitter is a goddamn curse. It’s like taking a cold shower under Niagara Falls. If I feel under siege, I’m the idiot who opened wide the door, to mix metaphors. Just getting close to the feed you get the spray of headlines and sometimes genuine wit from the deluge of chatter that pours and pours.

I have an extensive library of poetry I barely visit anymore. I’m always with screens, not books. I literally un-velcro my phone holster sometimes when the phone isn’t there and shake my head. Hashtag first world problems.

I finally went to the shelves tonight and summoned Spicer. On first crack of the spine, this:

Jim-almost-James tells me he likes Tolkien
“He doesn’t water down good and evil,” they say. “He sees them.”
Everything that is in the pawnshop is for sale. Truth
Is a drinking fountain.
I can’t describe good
But once tried to in a poem about a starfish
Or your watery eyes
Seeing nothing but what they told you. Mordor
Is so black that eye can’t fathom
The fact of it.
The carefulness of believing in my words, your watery eyes, my
Truth.

I love Jack Spicer. He’s one of those poets I feel compelled to tell other poets about if they haven’t heard of him.

Another poet I love: William Carlos Williams, and not for his most well known poem, which is actually an excerpt from the long poem Spring and All and goes like this:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

In addition to this anthologized gem, Williams also wrote stuff like this:

“It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

Despite the constant distraction of goddamn Twitter, I have had some chances to write things down. Lately that’s been song lyrics, not poems.

Below the fold are some lyrics I’m currently working on. For what it’s worth.

Continue Reading »

by lizard

How will the Walsh campaign respond to John’s apparent willingness to consider privatizing Social Security? Here’s the video clip being used by the Dirk Adams campaign:

Dirk Adams has given John Walsh a great opportunity to come out and say, after taking a closer look, privatizing Social Security is a terrible idea. I mean, why would Walsh even consider trying to accomplish what George Bush failed to do nearly 10 years ago? (that’s a rhetorical question, he will consider it for campaign cash from Wall Street).

4 years ago, George Bush said failing to privatize Social Security was one of his biggest regrets:

Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that his biggest failure in office was not reforming Social Security:

Speaking to a trade association in Chicago, Bush said that he “would like to be remembered as a guy who had a set of priorities and was willing to live by those priorities,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

The president aggressively pushed a plan in 2005 that would have allowed younger workers to invest part of their Social Security tax payment in private accounts that would make money off stocks, bonds and other investments. But his proposal never gained traction even in his own party, with Congress never bringing his plan to the floor for a vote.

The plan has haunted Republicans ever since. The financial crisis in 2008 cast a shadow of doubt over the proposal, since seniors’ savings tied to the stock market would have lost on average 40 percent of their value. Republicans campaigning across the country have sought to distance themselves from Bush’s approach. Even Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, whose budget reform plan includes private accounts, goes out of his way to say his plan shouldn’t be called privatization.

Maybe the Walsh campaign needs a reminder that privatizing Social Security is not popular. This is a political reality that even Republicans seem to understand.

There is a more dominant political reality, though, and that’s the constant need for campaign cash. While no one needs a reminder that money=viability, Don Pogreba likes to repeatedly point this out:

According to KRTV, neither Bohlinger nor Adams managed to get their first quarter FEC reports in on time. In fact, both are facing fines from the FEC for their failure to report in a timely fashion. While both offered excuses for their missing reports, the truth is that late campaign reports either suggest incompetence or having raised no money. I can’t speak to the first, but neither campaign raised enough money to be considered remotely competitive, with Adams claiming $18,000 raised and Bohlinger not even answering the question.

We’ve certainly discussed the negative influence of money in politics, but it’s also a measure of support. That Walsh’s opponents have raised almost no cash suggests that they’re not attracting supporters or spreading a message that resonates.

Is John Walsh trying to “attract supporters” by spreading a message “that resonates” with Wall Street? Seems like it.

If the media picks up Walsh entertaining the reckless idea of prying open the Social Security vault for the wolves of Wall Street, that could hurt his virtually non-existent campaign.

Wall Street has already decimated the savings of millions of Americans with their shameless greed, and they continue obscenely enriching themselves by gaming the system. The Walsh campaign should be more concerned about the Americans Wall Street has impoverished than attracting the support of un-indicted criminals.

by lizard

A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists declared 2013 to be the second worst year for journalists getting jailed. At the top of the list for the second consecutive year is America’s pal, Turkey. Iran and China round out the top 3. Nothing surprising about any of that.

In Ukraine, the brief detention of Simon Ostrovsky nearly set things off in a bad way. Yesterday he was released, seemingly unharmed. From the link:

Pro-Russian armed gunmen in Ukraine have released an American journalist held hostage since Tuesday, his news organisation has confirmed.

Simon Ostrovsky, a correspondent for Vice News, had been covering the region’s unfolding crisis for several weeks and had recently followed the activities of masked gunmen as they seized government buildings in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine said Ostrovsky had been held on suspicion of spying for Right Sector, a far-right Ukrainian nationalist party, or for other possible “enemy groups”.

While going after journalists is indefensible, it’s clear there is an incredibly complex information war being waged across the globe. Even the words we use (or don’t use) are a part of it.

I wrote earlier this month about the attempt to define “covered journalists” with the Free Flow of Information Act. How this term is defined could impact who, for example, spends time in jail for reporting on acts of whistle-blowing. If some blogger is doing the reporting, good luck blogger.

The information war is nasty. For reporting on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye was sentenced to 5 years in jail.  Why?  Because President Saleh, a loyal lapdog of the US, knows how to please his master.

When Saleh was about to pardon this journalist, Obama called to express his “concern”.  What was Obama concerned about?  The truth of who was doing the killing in Yemen.

This excerpt is from an article Jeremy Scahill wrote for The Nation, titled Why is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?

While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”

21 children killed.  That’s one more kid than was killed at Sandy Hook.

The information war is being waged on another front, net neutrality. Once upon a time candidate Obama was for net neutrality. But President Obama’s FCC appointment is of course going to try and do the exact opposite, as reported by The New Yorker:

In 2007, at a public forum at Coe College, in Iowa, Presidential candidate Barack Obama was asked about net neutrality. Specifically, “Would you make it a priority in your first year of office to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land? And would you pledge to only appoint F.C.C. commissioners that support open Internet principles like net neutrality?”

“The answer is yes,” Obama replied. “I am a strong supporter of net neutrality.” Explaining, he said, “What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites…. And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

If reports in the Wall Street Journal are correct, Obama’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, has proposed a new rule that is an explicit and blatant violation of this promise. In fact, it permits and encourages exactly what Obama warned against: broadband carriers acting as gatekeepers and charging Web sites a payola payment to reach customers through a “fast lane.”

Speaking of virtual lanes, the road to the Moon of Alabama was recently closed due to a DDoS attack disrupting typepad service. Thankfully service has been restored, so go and read this post about how John Kerry is spreading lies first trumpeted by the NYT, and only later, feebly retracted.

This is how the American public was prepped for the war on Iraq.

Don’t worry, just in time for the midterms MSNBC has a new initiative called Growing Hope, and by initiative I mean marketing campaign. Watch the ad here, if you dare. For the empty words, there’s this:

As hope grows, so does the power of people. Growing Hope is a new initiative that invites Americans to share their hopes around issues that matter to them. We want you to share your hopes, contribute to the conversation, and find a way – large or small – to make a difference in your community. Explore, join in, and speak out about issues that matter to you.

Thanks MSNBC! That’s a great idea.

Oh, and poets, sharpen your pencils. It might not be a bad idea to keep multiple hard copies of your work.

by lizard

Judge William B. Jones and Judge Edward A. Tamm were influential enough to have had a lecture series named after them, and this is what the lectures series is allegedly all about:

The Judge William B. Jones and Judge Edward A. Tamm Lecture Series honors the memory of two distinguished jurists who had strong Montana ties. They left their mark, a very positive mark, on the federal judiciary. Both of them established themselves as judges who were deeply committed to improving the administration of our judicial system and preserving and enhancing the rule of law in our society. In view of their exemplary commitment to the administration of justice, their deep interest in lawyers and in particular, law students and members of the bar, this lecture series was founded.

This year Leon Panetta was the guest of honor.

It’s so nice to have the UM School of Law and the Missoulian enable a professional liar to spread dangerous bullshit like torture helped find Osama Bin Laden. Just read this excerpt from the Missoulian article:

The CIA is a “very self-contained operation,” Panetta said, with people who run missions, build technology and command the support of the regular military for actions in addition to analyzing intelligence.

“I don’t have a large bureaucracy to deal with,” Panetta said. “The president tells me what to do and I can get it done.”

Bennett inquired about the CIA’s use of torture in some of those activities.

“Do you believe enhanced interrogation techniques are consistent with American values?” Bennett asked. “Do they work?”

Panetta said some enhanced interrogation techniques “come very close to the line of what’s torture and what’s not torture.” But he added President Barack Obama told the CIA “we’re not going to use those methods anymore,” and he oversaw the closure of some facilities where they were used.

“Intelligence was gathered by those methods that helped piece together the identities of couriers that led to bin Laden,” Panetta said. “I don’t know if that could have been reached by other methods.”

Compare Panetta’s statements with this Guardian article:

A hotly disputed US Senate torture report concludes that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to congressional aides and outside experts familiar with the investigation.

The CIA still disputes that conclusion.

From the moment of bin Laden’s death almost three years ago in what was America’s biggest counterterrorism success, former Bush administration and some senior CIA officials have cited the evidence trail leading to the al-Qaida mastermind’s compound in Pakistan as vindicating the “enhanced interrogation techniques” they authorized after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

But Democratic and some Republican senators have disputed that account. They described simulated drownings, sleep deprivation and other such practices as cruel and ineffective. With the release edging closer for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on interrogations, renditions and detentions, they hope to make a persuasive case.

The real gem is Panetta’s lamenting that America’s greatest threat is our “inability to deal with the budget”. Here is his comment:

“Our most dangerous national security issue is our inability to deal with the budget,” said the man who’s also directed the Central Intelligence Agency and Office of Management and Budget, and chaired the U.S. House Budget Committee. “We need tax reform and a budget deal that tells us where the U.S. is going. If we cannot fix this, we will not be a strong nation in the future. We will be a nation in decline.”

We are already a nation in decline and that is in large part because of our “defense” spending and the fact we waged wars on the national credit card. Tax reform isn’t going to save us, though. We need a total reevaluation of our nation’s priorities.

And if we ever try to shift our national priorities, I hope going after the financial terrorists on Wall Street is near the top of the list.

by lizard

I’ve been deprived of internet access for the past few days, and this morning that turned out to be a good thing, because I wrote a poem that I’m pretty happy with. This is one of those pieces that arrived nearly whole, requiring little post-writing editing, which is rare for me.

*

SPRING POEM

it was never the dark chilled our bones
it was how the mind made the images
of what the eyes couldn’t see moving

it was never the dark, the spin of the earth
taking the sun away from us
it was the rumors of troops amassing
on the cold spring border of The Great Bear

The Eagle trembles in its nest
a low buzz fills the sky with dread
the borders we need
are not the borders being taken

a web of pathways closing off to us
won’t stop the spark makers
from creating brief flourishes of revelation

child, it was never the dark
it was always a grateful nod to the moon
and by her light the world moves

closer to the edge

—William Skink

by lizard

Ok America, how brainwashed are you? How incurious and gullible are you? From the President to the pundits, the sheer audacity of the propaganda being shoved into your gaping craw regarding Ukraine indicates the following assumption: they think you’re all a bunch of idiots.

Four days ago it was leaflets telling jews in Eastern Ukraine to register:

World leaders and Jewish groups condemned a leaflet handed out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which Jews were told to “register” with the pro-Russian militants who have taken over a government office in an attempt to make Ukraine part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website, and Ukraine’s Donbass news agency.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the language of the leaflets “is beyond unacceptable” and condemned whomever is responsible.

The problem? It was a bunch of crap, according to news outlets like Haartz and New Republic. The date on the New Republic piece is April 17th, 2014. From the link:

Today, the Western press caught up with the Ukrainian rumor mill: apparently, the People’s Republic of Donetsk had ordered all Jews over the age of 16 to pay a fee of $50 U.S. and register with the new “authorities,” or face loss of citizenship or expulsion. This was laid out in officious-looking fliers pasted on the local synagogue. One local snapped a photo of the fliers and sent it to a friend in Israel, who then took it to the Israeli press and, voila, an international scandal: American Twitter is abuzz with it, Drudge is hawking it, and, today in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry slammed the fliers as “grotesque.”

The Donetsk Jewish community dismissed this as “a provocation,” which it clearly is. “It’s an obvious provocation designed to get this exact response, going all the way up to Kerry,” says Fyodr Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs. “I have no doubt that there is a sizeable community of anti-Semites on both sides of the barricades, but for one of them to do something this stupid—this is done to compromise the pro-Russian groups in the east.”

That conclusion is correct, and strengthened by the performance of David Gregory interviewing “Yats” on Meet the Press yesterday, April 20th. From the transcript:

DAVID GREGORY:

Final question. There have been ghastly reports coming out of eastern Ukraine this week about some kind of forces forcing Jews in the eastern part of the country to register with local authorities. What do you make of this? Are these accurate? Are Jews particularly at risk?

ARSENIY YATSENYUK:

We got information that these so-called peaceful protesters with light ammunition in their hands, that they sent a number of bulletins saying that everyone who is a Jew to be indicated as a Jew. And today in the morning, I made a clear statement urged Ukrainian military and security forces and Ukrainian Department of Homeland Security urgently to find these bastards and to bring them to justice.

DAVID GREGORY:

Prime Minister, thank you very, very much for your time. We appreciate it.

ARSENIY YATSENYUK:

Thank you, sir.

(END TAPE)

So why did the Obama administration essentially endorse a forgery? Are they desperate? Or are they that confident in the effectiveness of their propaganda? From the link, Diana Johnstone offers her speculation about why the fake leaflets were treated as real by Obama administration officials:

Scarcely had the fake document been glued to a wall than Secretary of State John Kerry mounted his habitual high horse to declare resoundingly that: “In the year 2014, after all of the miles travelled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it’s grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable.”

(It is an essential part of the Imperial rhetoric to assert on every such occasion what is or is not acceptable in “the second American century”.)

Now let’s be logical. When John Kerry denounces this document before the ink is dry, when President Obama and Susan Rice publicly endorse this forgery after it has been amply exposed in world media as disinformation, we must logically conclude that this propaganda morsel was a deliberate part of the US strategy to destabilize Ukraine by slandering pro-Russian anti-fascists as anti-Semitic. The purpose is clearly to drown out news of the pro-Nazi sympathies of the Svoboda party and the Right Sector that the US has chosen as anti-Russian allies. How can top US leaders be perfectly aware of what is written in Ukrainian on a piece of paper glued to a synagogue in Donetsk, and not know what was written in Haaretz and The New Republic? These endorsements are strong evidence of complicity in the forgery, since it is not credible that Kerry, Rice and Obama were too innocent to suspect a forgery.

Read the whole article, it’s very intriguing.

I’ll include another excerpt, because it touches on a short back and forth between JC and myself regarding whether or not America is losing control:

Never before have U.S. leaders been quite so reckless in asserting falsehoods as in this Ukrainian operation. They have a scenario and they are carrying it out, despite revelations that Victoria Nuland personally selected the new Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, that the Kiev snipers who facilitated the putsch the put Yats in office were hired by the pro-Western rebels, that their “freedom fighters” this time are Hitler fans and that about half the population of Ukraine identifies with Russia.

Never mind, the show must go on. They are counting on the vast, bottomless ignorance of the American masses concerning the rest of the world to allow them to get away with anything. The public doesn’t need to know anything about Ukraine, all they need is to be persuaded that it is Goldylocks being threatened by a big bad bear.

But the whole world is not that ignorant.

Domestically, the propaganda is working. Domestically, America doesn’t appear to be at the point of losing control of the message.

Outside America’s Orwellian doublespeak zone, ignorance seems less than bottomless.

And so does patience.

by lizard

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

Just because it’s a religious holiday that doesn’t mean America’s benign empire can take a break from killing dangerous foreigners. While Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, drone strikes blow up “militants” in Yemen.

The Obama administration also kills militants during Christmas. After two consecutive years of Christmas drone strikes, it’s almost like an American tradition.

When America is attacked in a similar manner, let’s say in Boston, the outcry never seems to viscerally connect the horror experienced domestically with the horrors visited regularly upon people in places like Yemen and Pakistan.

Sure, there are some who take the opportunity of questioning the effectiveness of drone strikes after domestic blowback happens, but the concern has yet to produce that kind of sustained criticism to actually effect the policy Bush started and Obama escalated.

Acknowledging the impact of drone strikes (Rolling Stone) means obliterating the delusional thinking of politicians like Pat Williams who absurdly describe the US empire as benign. From the link:

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and anxiety are becoming rampant in the different corners of the country where drones are active. “Drones hover over an area for hours, sometimes days and weeks,” said Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni-American anti-drone activist and cofounder of Support Yemen, a media collective raising awareness about issues afflicting the country. Yemenis widely describe suffering from constant sleeplessness, anxiety, short-tempers, an inability to concentrate and, unsurprisingly, paranoia.

Alwazir recalled a Yemeni villager telling her that the drones “are looking inside our homes and even at our women.'” She says that, “this feeling of infringement of privacy, combined with civilian casualties and constant fear and anxiety has a profound long time psychological effect on those living under drones.”

Last year, London-based forensic psychologist Peter Schaapveld presented research he’d conducted on the psychological impact of drone strikes in Yemen to a British parliamentary sub-committee. He reported that 92 percent of the population sample he examined was found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – with children being the demographic most significantly affected. Women, he found, claimed to be miscarrying from their fear of drones. “This is a population that by any figure is hugely suffering,” Schaapveld said. The fear of drones, he added, “is traumatizing an entire generation.”

The continued terrorizing of entire populations in countries like Yemen provides continued justification for jihadists to inflict similar violence on Americans in the states.

Here’s another contrast worth reading, juxtaposing words spoken by Obama with the death he oversees:

On April 18, after the 11 Afghan children and woman were killed and buried, President Obama came to Boston and spoke at an interfaith service following the Marathon bombings. He affirmed Bostonians and their patriotic history, said America was with them, stated everyone’s prayers were with the bombing victims and their loved ones, and lauded the heroic work of the first responders and medical staff. He declared that the “discipline” and “real power” and “love” of all involved was “the message we send to those who carried this act out and anyone who would do harm to our people. Yes, we will find you. And,” he added to applause, “yes, you will face justice.” He condemned “the perpetrators of such senseless violence—these small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build, and think somehow that makes them important. . . . what they don’t understand,” he went on, “ [is] our faith in each other, our love for each other, our love for country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences there may be—that is our power. . . . That’s why,” he said, “a bomb can’t beat us. . . . That’s why we don’t cower in fear. We carry on. . . . We build, and we work, and we love—and we raise our kids to do the same.” He ended with, “Tomorrow, the sun will rise over Boston . . . over this country that we love. This special place. This state of grace.” His final words were met with applause: “May God hold close those who’ve been taken from us too soon. May He comfort their families. And may He continue to watch over these United States of America.” (“Transcript: Obama’s remarks at interfaith service for Boston bombing victims,” New York Daily News, Apr. 18, 2013)

“These small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build.” At about the very time President Obama spoke these words in Boston, the sun rose over the village of Wessab in Yemen, and was followed by a U.S. drone strike that killed five people. It was the family village of Farea al-Muslimi, an activist and journalist, who testified about that and other drone strikes before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. His words would have provided a reality check for those interfaith worshippers listening to Obama’s speech. Al-Muslimi stated, “This is not an isolated incident. The drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis.” He became specific: “I have spoken to many victims of U.S. drone strikes, like a mother in Jaar who had to identify her innocent 18-year-old son’s body through a video in a stranger’s cell phone, or the father in Shaqra who held his four- and six-year-old children as they died in his arms.” He also “spoke with one of the tribal leaders present in 2009 at the place where U.S. cruise missiles targeted the village of al-Majalah in Lawdar, Abyan,” where “more than 40 civilians were killed, including four pregnant women.” (“Yemeni Activist Farea al-Muslimi Urges U.S. to Stop Drone War in His Country,” http://www.democracynow.org, Apr. 25, 2013)

“Discipline” and “real power” and “love,” President Obama told his interfaith audience after the Boston Marathon bombings. Farea al-Muslimi put it this way: “What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab.” (Ibid)

“These small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build.” It is about Yemen—and much more. It is about the Obama administration killing children and other civilians with drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. About the Pentagon “’counting all military-age males in a strike zone as militants,’ barring ‘explicit’ posthumous (italics added) intelligence proving their innocence”—to hide, and make more palatable, the number killed by this ongoing war crime. It is about “Obama’s remarkable transformation from anti-war Senator to drone-warrior-in-chief.” (“Report: Obama Redefines ‘Militant’ to Avoid Counting Civilian Drone Deaths,” Yahoo, May 30, 2012) It is about the criminal assassination, without due process, of American cleric Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, and two weeks later the assassination of his 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman.

If Americans want to be safer, then maybe our benign empire should stop slaughtering people with drone strikes.

by lizard

In Ukraine, the new government that came to power through a western-backed coup is trying to exert its power from Kiev through lethal violence:

As negotiations over the crisis in Ukraine begin in Geneva, tension is rising in the Ukrainian east after security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in the city of Mariupol. Ukrainian officials said the pro-Russian separatists had attempted to storm a military base. The killings came just after the unraveling of a Ukrainian operation to retake government buildings from pro-Russian separatists. Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the authorities in Kiev of plunging the country into an “abyss” and refused to rule out sending forces into Ukraine.

That report comes from Stephen Cohen, one of the few journalists trying to counter the US propaganda surrounding these escalating events. Here is how Cohen described the lead up to this crisis on Democracy Now a few days ago:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Stephen Cohen, it was just a few weeks ago when we had you on, as the crisis was beginning to unfold in Ukraine, and a lot of what you said then turned out to be true, which was that you feared that there would be a split in Ukraine itself between the east and west. And obviously Crimea was just developing then. But it seems that all of the emphasis in the coverage here is as if the crisis started with Russian aggression, not with the earlier period of what was NATO and Europe’s involvement in Ukraine before the deposing of the elected president.

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, I think you’ve emphasized the absolute flaw in at least the American—because I don’t follow the European press that closely—the American media and political narrative. As a historian, I would say that this conflict began 300 years ago, but we can’t do that. As a contemporary observer, it certainly began in November 2013 when the European Union issued an ultimatum, really, to the then-president, elected president, of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, that “Sign an agreement with us, but you can’t have one with Russia, too.” In my mind, that precipitated this crisis, because why give a country that has been profoundly divided for centuries, and certainly in recent decades, an ultimatum—an elected president: “Choose, and divide your country further”? So when we say today Putin initiated this chaos, this danger of war, this confrontation, the answer is, no, that narrative is wrong from the beginning. It was triggered by the European Union’s unwise ultimatum.

Now flash forward to just one month ago, about the time I was with you before. Remember that the European foreign ministers—three of them, I think—went to Kiev and negotiated with Yanukovych, who was still the president, an agreement. Now, the Russians were present at the negotiation, but they didn’t sign it. But they signed off on it. They said, “OK.” What did that agreement call for? Yanukovych would remain president until December—not May, when elections are now scheduled, but December of this year. Then there would be a presidential election. He could run in them, or not. Meanwhile, there would be a kind of government of national accord trying to pull the government together. And, importantly, Russia would chip in, in trying to save the Ukrainian economy. But there would also be parliamentary elections. That made a lot of sense. And it lasted six hours.

The next day, the street, which was now a mob—let’s—it was no longer peaceful protesters as it had been in November. It now becomes something else, controlled by very ultra-nationalist forces; overthrew Yanukovych, who fled to Russia; burned up the agreement. So who initiated the next stage of the crisis? It wasn’t Russia. They wanted that agreement of February, a month ago, to hold. And they’re still saying, “Why don’t we go back to it?” You can’t go back to it, though there is a report this morning that Yanukovych, who is in exile in Russia, may fly to eastern Ukraine today or tomorrow, which will be a whole new dimension.

But the point of it is, is that Putin didn’t want—and this is reality, this is not pro-Putin or pro-Washington, this is just a fact—Putin did not want this crisis. He didn’t initiate it. But with Putin, once you get something like that, you get Mr. Pushback. And that’s what you’re now seeing. And the reality is, as even the Americans admit, he holds all the good options. We have none. That’s not good policymaking, is it?

In the constant attempt to justify western interests, you can count on the Polish Wolf. When I quoted an excerpt from Cohen’s Democracy Now interview from the quote above, this was part of PW’s response:

As to the EU ultimatum, I don’t think people understand how the EU works. It is a trade and customs union. If Ukraine signs a trade and customs deal with the EU, and with Russia, the EU is inadvertently in a trade relationship with Russia that it’s membership doesn’t want to be in. And anyway starting a discussion of who started the crisis in 2013 is foolish indeed – you have to look as well at Russia’s willingness to wreck havoc with Ukraine’s economy, via border and gas controls, just to destabilize Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, and you’ll see why the EU proposed what they did.

No one is arguing that Russia is some benign trade partner with Ukraine. Both Russia and the EU offered their respective deals, and the elected president of Ukraine chose Russia’s deal over the EU. And because of that choice, the 5 billion dollar investment to “build democracy” Victoria Nuland cited was ratcheted up into a full blown overthrow of the Ukrainian government.

Instead of talking about a sensible off-ramp to a military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, we have nutjobs like James Jeffrey in a Washington Post op-ed saying the US should send troops to quell the crisis:

The best way to send Putin a tough message and possibly deflect a Russian campaign against more vulnerable NATO states is to back up our commitment to the sanctity of NATO territory with ground troops, the only military deployment that can make such commitments unequivocal. To its credit, the administration has dispatched fighter aircraft to Poland and the Baltic states to reinforce NATO fighter patrols and exercises. But these deployments, as with ships temporarily in the Black Sea, have inherent weaknesses as political signals. They cannot hold terrain — the ultimate arbiter of any military calculus — and can be easily withdrawn if trouble brews. Troops, even limited in number, send a much more powerful message. More difficult to rapidly withdraw once deployed, they can make the point that the United States is serious about defending NATO’s eastern borders.

This is insanity, and further proof of the delusional propaganda being deployed to establish the psychological foundation for a military confrontation with Russia.

America has lost its shit. Who is going to fight WWIII for the .01%? Our military does not currently project strength, despite the fact this country accounts for over 40% of what the entire world spends on “defense”.  US troops are exhausted, over-extended, and literally killing themselves at record rates.

The US, with its post-9/11 crusade to police the world, has inched geopolitics back to a point of tension where we have to think about Mutually Assured Destruction. Non-proliferation can’t happen when countries that give up their weapons of mass destruction get regime-changed, like Iraq and Libya.

No first use is an interesting concept that will unfortunately never gain traction in our current political environment:

No first use (NFU) refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. Earlier, the concept had also been applied to chemical and biological warfare.

As of October 2008, China has publicly declared its commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons.

As of 2010, India has signaled a shift from no first use to no first use against non-nuclear weapon states.

NATO has repeatedly rejected calls for adopting NFU policy, arguing that preemptive nuclear strike is a key option. In 1993, Russia dropped a pledge given by the former Soviet Union not to use nuclear weapons first. In 2000, a Russian military doctrine stated that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons “in response to a large-scale conventional aggression”.

De-escalation doesn’t seem possible now, not when the information war is blazing hot and US troops are beginning to be strategically deployed.

Benevolent voice of benign empire? Purity of purpose? Nope, that brand of delusional thinking couldn’t be farther from the truth.

America is out of control.

by lizard

The journalist who spent a weekend in America’s so-called rape capital decided to recently amplify some big problems with the candidacy of Kirsten Pabst, which jhwygirl covers here.

In the Missoulian article about Pabst’s run for Fred Van Valkenburg’s position, you have to get through a lot of fluff about horses before getting to the problems:

Early in 2012, Pabst switched gears and went into private law practice on her own – despite being the heir apparent to the county attorney’s seat.

“I really loved it and I loved the work,” Pabst said later. “It just got to a point … I was spending so much time working that I needed to take a break and spend time with my family and my horses.”

Horse races being what they are, I wonder how much enthusiasm there is for Pabst among Democrats. It appears even Missoula Democrats are pondering their political exposure, as this article seems to indicate:

The Missoula Democratic Central Committee adopted a resolution this month calling on the Missoula County attorney and Board of County Commissioners to “realign their financial resources to create meaningful improvements in addressing sexual assault cases.”

“The crime of sexual assault produces lifelong consequences, and all allegations of sexual assault need to be taken seriously by law enforcement and other institutions that have power in Missoula,” reads part of the resolution.

On Thursday, Missoula County Democrats board chairman Dave Kendall said county officials are making progress in providing services for victims and bringing justice to bear on perpetrators. However, he said the legal dispute between the County Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice remains a concern.

“We think the money should be spent on helping victims and not on lawsuits,” Kendall said.

Nice to see Missoula County Democrats say something.  That’s certainly better than saying nothing.

by jhwygirl

BuzzFeed’s Katie J. M. Baker has published a damned fine and thorough assessment of Kirsten Pabst’s candidacy for Missoula County Attorney.

Ms. Baker puts together a pretty long list of issues that should make any Missoula resident rule Pabst out of the running for the next County Attorney – to replace the faultering and uncooperative Fred Van Valkenburg.

I especially love that Katie J.M Baker used Pabst’s blog posts. While Pabst has been critical of not only the media, but of anonymous bloggers like me, Pabst was so committed to her blog words that she’d delete them in two or three days. Apparently there are people out there who know that game. Who’d of thought of that???

And for those of you still fans of Mr. Van Valkenburg, consider his words on Pabst – who is openly criticizing Van Valkenburg’s leadership:

As chief criminal deputy, Pabst was free to establish any policy she thought she was appropriate in the criminal division, he said. “She was an integral part of the management of this office for over five years.”

Missoula’s once again in the national news over the University of Montana & Missoula’s rape scandal – this time via Kirstin Pabst’s candidacy.

If Missoula is wanting to put the rape scandal behind us, putting Pabst in as chief of the county attorney’s office is NOT the way to go about it.

by lizard

Michael C. Ruppert was once an LA cop, which gave him more credibility than your average conspiracy theorist when it came to topics like the CIA’s involvement in the drug trade. Here’s a clip of Ruppert confronting the CIA director:

Last Sunday, after hosting his radio show The Lifeboat Hour, it’s being reported that Ruppert went home and committed suicide. Ruppert’s death was announced by Carolyn Baker on Facebook, where she assured people this wasn’t one of those “fake” suicides.

Ruppert believed in peak oil and Dick Cheney’s complicity in the 9/11 attacks. His book Crossing the Rubicon is one of the best examinations of events leading up to the terrorist attacks on 9/11/ I’ve ever read. It’s exhaustively researched and provides copious amounts of footnotes.

People who stake their names and reputations on exploring conspiratorial inquiries don’t usually do very well, personally or professionally. Conspiracy theorists are ridiculed, badgered and harassed into relative obscurity as they try to raise awareness about the dark capacities of the deep state.

I believe that someday trailblazers like Michael Ruppert and Gary Webb will be given the credit they are due. At great personal cost they have brought to the surface (for those willing to look) details about the damage rogue agencies like the CIA have perpetrated on the American people.

by lizard

Not good. Ukraine just took a big step on the road to civil war today:

Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov has announced the start of an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists.

He told parliament it was being conducted “stage by stage, in a responsible… manner”.

Hours later, gunfire was heard at an airbase which officials said had been in the hands of militants.

Mr Turchynov said the airbase at Kramatorsk had been “liberated” from “terrorists”.

The White House is now supportive of a violent state crackdown on protestors:

The United States is giving its tacit support to Ukrainian military action against pro-Russian separatists.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says such action isn’t the preferred option, but that the Ukrainian government has to respond to what he says is an untenable situation.

At Moon of Alabama you can take a trip down memory lane to a time (2 months ago) when Obama sang a very different tune about how the Ukrainian government should respond to protestors:

Obama says the U.S. urges Ukraine’s military not to get involved in a conflict that must be resolved politically. He’s expressing outrage about images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic guns on Ukrainian people.

Obama says in a statement that Ukraine should respect the right of protest and that protesters must be peaceful. He’s calling for dialogue to reduce tensions and address the people’s grievances.

I guess now that the US has its guy in power, the time for addressing grievances has passed. It’s spring time. Time for war.

How will Russia respond? Will Putin take the bait? Will war in Ukraine lead to a US confrontation with Russia?

by lizard

Ukraine is on the precipice as Russian war planes buzz US ships and Brennan, the director of the CIA, returns from a trip to Kiev over the weekend. A deadline has come and gone with no action from the Ukrainian government. Buildings are still occupied and reports of shots fired are popping up. Any small spark could set things off.

The manner in which power transferred in Ukraine has created a government legitimacy problem Russia is now openly exploiting. Part of that legitimacy problem comes from legitimate concerns with the level of US involvement, especially after Victoria Nuland’s Fuck the EU leak hit the web.

I know that kind of evidence is hard for some to absorb, but it validates concerns that unnecessary provocations took place to dispose of a corrupt tool who made the mistake of taking the wrong mobster’s deal.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I suspect the same people who support ends justify the means reasoning behind the overthrowing of the Ukrainian government are probably appropriately worried about the sudden stand off over Cliven Bundy’s cattle and the grass they graze.

I finally got caught up on this right wing memicane (meme+hurricane) after catching a little Chris Hayes tonight, and boy howdy, this has got to be one of the best Fox and friends outrage-gasms ever.

Unfortunately, the underlying belief that the Federal government is illegitimate is a very real, very dangerous opinion shared by the kind of people who showed up in armed support of Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay what he’s obliged to pay, by law.  How do you think our government would react if right-wing militia groups tried to storm and occupy government buildings by force in DC?

Here’s something I would hope is obvious by now: when governments are removed, power vacuums are created, and that usually means instability and violence. Just look at Libya, where the Prime Minister quit after just a month on the job:

Libya’s interim prime minister handed his resignation to parliament on Sunday, just one month into the job, saying gunmen had tried to attack his family.

Abdullah al-Thinni’s resignation adds to the growing chaos in Libya, where the government has struggled to control brigades of former rebels nearly three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

By delegitimizing governments abroad in preparation of enacting regime change after regime change, the cheerleaders of neoliberal free-market expansion don’t seem to understand that the same reasoning is used domestically by right-wing separatist movements in the States.

Going back to the situation in Ukraine, here’s how Michael Whitney summarizes US interests from an article posting today at Counterpunch, titled Is Putin Being Lured Into a Trap?:

The overriding goal of US policy in Ukraine is to stop the further economic integration of Asia and Europe. That’s what the fracas is really all about. The United States wants to control the flow of energy from East to West, it wants to establish a de facto tollbooth between the continents, it wants to ensure that those deals are transacted in US dollars and recycled into US Treasuries, and it wants to situate itself between the two most prosperous markets of the next century. Anyone who has even the sketchiest knowledge of US foreign policy– particularly as it relates to Washington’s “pivot to Asia”– knows this is so. The US is determined to play a dominant role in Eurasia in the years ahead. Wreaking havoc in Ukraine is a central part of that plan.

I look forward to be doing told why this is just more nonsense being spewed by us crazy lefties.

by lizard

It’s impressive watching the contortions of Democrat interventionists regarding Ukraine. At Daily Kos, this post asserts the US “Did Not Spend $5 Billion to Destabilize Yanukovich”. There is literally nothing of substance, so I won’t quote any of it.

I will quote from the latest scapegoating of the left from PW, titled The American Left has Failed on Ukraine, which starts with this:

The American Left has absolutely and utterly failed to reach correct conclusions or make correct decisions in Ukraine. The result is that John McCain, who never met an ‘enemy of my enemy’ he couldn’t get behind, no matter how horrific, looks almost (almost) sane by comparison. Where a few weeks or months ago there could be legitimate debates, smart money was never on the side of the contrarian Left, and events have shown this to be true in at least two major ways.

I guess the smart money PW is referring to is that totally non-de-stabilizing 5 billion the conspiracy theorists speculate about. Because that cash was all just for good democracy building stuff, right? Let’s give PW a chance to provide some substance to his claim lefty contrarianism has failed to reach correct conclusions regarding the crisis in Ukraine:

1. The government currently in Ukraine is not a threat to Russians living in Ukraine. Quite the opposite – Russians in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are actively undermining the government of Ukraine (No, the status of Russian as an official regional language, by the way, has not changed. Russia Today reported that it has, and to my knowledge has failed to note that the president of Ukraine never signed into law that act).

On what authority are we to accept such a sweeping claim that “The government currently in Ukraine is not a threat to Russians...”? In my previous post, the link to Andre Vltchek’s piece reports on legitimate fear from people in Eastern Ukraine. Maybe PW can tell us if anyone with thoughts not aligned with the current government should be considered a separatist “actively undermining the government of Ukraine” and, once labeled, what should be done with them?

Instead of acknowledging legitimate fears sweeping Ukraine on all sides, PW launches a weak spin on the fascist element now in positions of power, post-coup:

2. The government is not dominated by neo-fascists, at least, not yet. Svoboda and Pravdiy Sektor are both still extreme minority parties, and the armed right wing is under heavy police pressure by the Ukrainian government. Indeed, the only party that has anything to gain from Pravdiy Sektor’s gaining power, and the only party acting to make that more likely, is Russia. Both Svoboda and Pravdiy Sektor have loudly opposed admission to the EU or the involvement of the IMF in Ukraine (interestingly, the exact same position toward Ukraine advocated by our local ‘progressive’ blogs), making it seem highly unlikely that they will continue to have Euro-American backing. Hard core nationalism in a multi-ethnic state like Ukraine can only lead to instability, the exact outcome Russia desires, and it can only be strengthened by the constant threat (and fact) of Russian intervention.

I love how #2 starts off with an attempt to minimize the presence of the neo-fascist element (a tacit acknowledgement of their presence) while simultaneously implying this fascist threat may become more dangerous if…what? If the instability “Russia desires” develops?

Just to be clear, I have not specifically claimed that the post-coup government in Ukraine is “dominated” by neo-fascists, but it’s a fact right-sector elements grabbed top cabinet positions in the vacuum, post-coup:

The ultra-right Svoboda Party has scored six major cabinet ministries in the government of Arseniy Yatsenyuk approved by the Ukrainian parliament on Thursday. Svoboda is an ultra-right, anti-Semitic, Russophobic party with its base of support in the Western Ukraine.

The most important post was claimed by a co-founder of Svoboda, Andriy Parubiy. He was named Secretary of the Security and National Defense Committee, which supervises the defense ministry and the armed forces.

What else does PW have to say?

The Left continues to breezily describe Yanukovych as the ‘democratic’ leader of Ukraine, ignoring the fact that since his election, Ukraine has markedly regressed in terms of fair and transparent elections. History is full of ‘democratic’ leaders who ended democracy once it was done serving their purposes. Some even act as though the Crimean referendum, which was conducted under military occupation without any outside observers and didn’t even present the status quo as an option on the ballot, has some kind of validity. Perhaps the biggest failing of Leftist analysis, though, is the consistent belief that somehow this is related to NATO’s eastward expansion, or that a reasonable solution can include preventing Ukraine from ever joining NATO. If one knows the history, this is absolute hogwash. Note that Russian intervention in neighboring countries has been a constant fact since the Napoleonic wars – and NATO membership has shown to be the strongest preventive measure of that outcome. Georgia has been invaded; Turkey has not. Ukraine has been invaded; Estonia, almost incalculably weaker, has not.

First, let me say PW is correct. It is quite breezy to remind interventionists that nations who at least go through the trouble of staging elections should have their respective processes respected. Of course that’s before I learned that Ukraine “has markedly regressed in terms of fair and transparent elections” I’m starting to think maybe that 5 billion wasn’t so well spent after all. Maybe we could get an accurate accounting of exactly where that money went?  I’m also concerned that maybe American democracy has also markedly regressed.  Does that mean violence against the US state is justified?  Think of that justification coming from sovereign citizens.

PW’s fundamental disagreement with critics like me centers on the expansion of NATO. His argument focuses on how the protection racket of NATO expansionism has, so far, worked for member nations, thanks to article 5. I think that’s a dangerously short-sighted measure of success.

I guess the failure of the left is so bad, PW considers John McCain almost sane. That’s something, and emphasizes what actually most concerns me.

How strong does Obama think he needs to look for midterms?

PW ends his lesson on the failure of the left with this:

I realize that calling for further expansion of NATO means I’m at odds with most Leftist foreign policy practitioners in the US, but for me, personal experience, the testimony of my friends and acquaintances, the demographic and statistical evidence, and the historical record all indicate that on this point, the Left has gotten it wrong.

I hope I am wrong.

by lizard

I think watching network news can be instructive. Take tonight’s NBC reporting on the latest escalations in Ukraine. The framing delivered by the anchor is brilliant: “The White House is warning Russia against further military intervention…” (emphasis added).

There is a huge, unjustified leap right from the get-go in how NBC is depicting the occupation of buildings in Eastern Ukraine. If these actions by anti-government protestors pro-Russian separatists represent further Russian military intervention, that clearly implies there is already some degree of previous or ongoing intervention occurring.

Besides, isn’t occupying buildings what the US validated as acceptable behavior when you don’t like the direction your country is taking?

Bernhard at Moon of Alabama is reporting there does seem to be some level of coordination happening in Eastern Ukraine:

Over the last days people in Donetsk city had occupied several government buildings and barricaded them. The Alfa police units, SWAT operators, sent to kick them out allegedly refused to do so. A 48 hour coup-government ultimatum to clear the buildings was not followed up on. It is possible that the coup-government has found no loyal force that would do its bidding.

Today several other cities in Donetsk oblast also saw extensive movements of anti coup-government groups. In Sloviansk some para-military group, some of them somewhat trained (video), broke into the main police station and raised the Russian flag. They allegedly handed out weapons to other protesters. The mayor of Sloviansk had announced her pro-Russian stand. Around the city street checkpoints of pro-Russian militia, pictures show some mid aged men, went up. Many of these people are said to be miners from the large Donetsk coal mines. They are on the look out for incoming military and police traffic from Kiev. Trained people from the Berkut riot police, dissolved by the coup-government, have joined the protesters.

In Mariupol and Druzhkovka protesters have blocked or seized the local city administration. Police in Kramatorskaya joined the protesters there. The city of Luhansk, where there are also protests, and Donetsk were today at least once buzzed by military planes.

I have seen no Donetsk pictures yet of “polite green men”, i.e. Russian military operators, like those seen in Crimea. The militia people occupying buildings in Donetsk oblast also seem to be less equipped than the local self-defense groups that could be seen in Crimea. While this operation in several Donetsk cities today seems somewhat coordinated there is no hint yet that Russia is behind this.

At the beginning of this month, the Polish Wolf wanted Intelligent Discontent readers to know what a few Ukrainians thought about being in a tug-of-war between Russia and the US/EU. Some of the comments, especially about nuclear weapons, were troubling, like this one:

“Otto von Bismark once said that any contract with Russia isn`t worth even the paper on which it was signed. So it`s normal for them to break diplomatic agreements, but is US and Britain`s role then better, when being the guarantors of our safety they just keep on talking and watching how our soldiers are being killed, journalists kidnapped and Tatars repressed? I`ll tell you more – such political impotence of the world`s greatest organizations – NATO & EU, provokes in Ukrainians` discussions more interest towards renovation of atomic weapon, because facing the “great bear” all alone we have to be ready to protect ourselves. That`s the most upsetting realization of what is happening now – NO WORLD WILL HELP.”

The comments were kept anonymous, so we’ll just have to trust PW that they did in fact come from Ukrainians.

For some more perspective, Andre Vltchek has been traveling through Ukraine and has a new article up about his conversations with Ukrainians. Here is one example:

Before reaching Odessa we leave the highway and drive northeast, towards Moldova and its small separatist enclave, called Transnistria.

There, the river Kuchurgan separates the Ukrainian town of Kuchurgan and the Transnistrian city of Pervomaisc.

I see no Russian tanks at Pervomaisc, no artillery. There is absolutely no military movement whatsoever, despite the countless Western mass media reports testifying (in abstract terms) to the contrary.

I cross the bridge on foot and ask the Transnistrian border guard, whether he has recently seen any foreign correspondents arriving from the United States or the European Union, attempting to cross the border and verify the facts. He gives me a bewildered look.

I watch beautiful white birds resting on the surface of the river, and then I return to Ukraine.

There, two ladies who run the ‘Camelot Bar’ served us the most delicious Russo/Ukrainian feast of an enormous borscht soup, and pelmeni.

Russian television station blasts away, and the two women cannot stop talking; they are frank, proud, and fearless. I turn on my film camera, but they don’t mind:

“Look what is happening in Kiev”, exclaims Alexandra Tsyganskaya, the owner of the restaurant. “The US and the West were planning this; preparing this, for months, perhaps years! Now people in Ukraine are so scared, most of them are only whispering. They are petrified. There is such tension everywhere, that all it would take is to light a match and everything will explode.”

Her friend, Evgenia Chernova, agrees: “In Odessa, Russian-speaking people get arrested, and they are taken all the way to Kiev. The same is happening in Kharkov, in Donetsk, and elsewhere. They call it freedom of speech! All Russian television channels are banned. What you see here is broadcasted from across the border. They treat people like cattle. But our people are not used to this: they will rebel, they will resist! And if they push them to the edge, it will be terrible!”

Ukraine is a powder keg, but it’s not the only one. Also getting some network news attention is an “unconfirmed” video of another alleged chemical attack in Syria.

It’s irrational to think Assad would choose this form of killing when he has other forms of killing at his disposal that don’t cross “red lines”. It’s too bad speculating otherwise means considering Operation Gladio style asymmetrical warfare deployed by US-backed opposition groups.

Why too bad? Because going there means going into the easily maligned realm of the ever-nebulous conspiracy theory.

In *BREAKING* conspiracy culture news, it appears those of us who make our little trips into this dislocating space have some interesting company, as outed by Gawker in a piece titled The Astounding Conspiracy Theories of Wall Street Genius Mark Gorton.

Seriously, because unlike crazy anonymous bloggers like myself, this guy isn’t a “crackpot”.

Mark Gorton is a prominent financier and a respected entrepreneur. He founded the music sharing site Limewire, and he runs Tower Research, a famed high-frequency trading firm. Gorton also believes that the “ruthless” secret cabal that assassinated JFK and planned 9/11 could be coming to kill his family.

Mark Gorton does not have a reputation as a crackpot. Quite the opposite. He’s been favorably profiled in the New York Times for his business acumen and charitable deeds. His experience as the head of Limewire—which disrupted the music industry and then lost a $100 million lawsuit as a result—was closely followed by the press. And when Michael Lewis’s blockbuster new book about high frequency trading was published recently, prominent media outlets turned to Gorton to learn what HFT firms are really like. The Huffington Post even dubbed him “the new face of Wall Street.” He is a very respected and very wealthy man.

This week, we were forwarded documents that Gorton was sending out to employees at Tower Research. These documents—embedded at the bottom of this post—are essays by Mark Gorton, laying out his theories on the secret high-level murderous criminal “Cabal” that is responsible for, among other things, the JFK and RFK assassinations, the presidential careers of the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama, the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 plot, and the murder of countless witnesses, politicians, and journalists who sought to expose them, including Sen. Paul Wellstone and even Hunter S. Thompson. Everything, according to Gorton, has been an inside job.

It is really something.

I’d say so.

Mark Tokarski made a connection in a recent post I personally found intriguing because I’m fascinated by Hollywood and the strange tentacles lurking beneath the lucrative engines of our popular culture.

The post should be read in full because it’s too packed with details to excerpt, and this post is already long enough. I’ll simply say it has to do with the possible involvement of Woody Harrelson’s dad in the JFK assassination.

For anyone curious about the dark side of Hollywood, Dave McGowan’s Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon will be on sale starting April 30th. I’ve already read much of the material, and it’s absolutely fascinating.

The end of April is an appropriate time for release. This is a month heavy with death. Shootings, like the 2nd Ft Hood tragedy—and a new twist, a mass-stabbing in a high school outside Pittsburgh, correlate with increased rates of suicide in spring and early summer. For more information about misconceptions regarding suicide, like the concern that talking to someone openly about suicide will somehow contribute to the likelihood of them doing it, you can start here.

April is also National Poetry Month, and I really need to be more consistent in featuring poetic material, so I’ll end this long post with the first four lines of Eliot’s The Wasteland, first published in 1922:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

by lizard

In a bipartisan move that further destroys American credibility on the world stage, Congress has thrown the Headquarter Agreement between the UN and the USofA, signed in 1947, out the window (NYT) in order to please AIPAC and blow up the Iran talks. From the NYT link:

Although the United States is obliged, as the host of the United Nations, to provide foreign diplomats with access, the State Department has asserted that American law permits it to deny visas to those deemed a threat to national security or American policy, categories that can be broadly interpreted.

What’s that I hear? Is it the benevolent voice of benign empire that Pat Williams apparently hears?

The United States has, with far too many obvious and tragic exceptions, tried to avoid unjustified interference in the affairs of other nations although there has always been an assertive minority of saber-rattlers among our citizenry and we have too often elected presidents who have been quick to the trigger. But in the end we have made our mistakes trying to defend and not dampen freedom.

When President John F. Kennedy announced, “I am a Berliner,” he was expressing the belief that Americans are citizens of the world – just as surely as were the ancient Romans. Ours is the benevolent voice of benign empire. Unlike either the Roman or British Empires ours encourages law above power. We are engaged not in consumption or the adjustment of national borders but rather with civil mission. “Watchmen on the walls of freedom,” Kennedy called it. America accepts the obligation of a powerful and free people to assist others around the world with purity of purpose and without the constant calculation of self-interest.

I literally feel nauseous reading propaganda like this. When JC first brought my attention to this disgusting example of American Exceptionalism, I had to read it several times just to be sure the patriarch of Montana Democrats, Pat Williams, actually spouted this insanity.

For a different perspective regarding the increasingly desperate behavior of our benign malignant empire, Paul Craig Roberts has a piece making the rounds that asks a provocative question: Is the US or the World Coming to an End? Here’s an excerpt:

Across many fronts, Washington is emerging in the world’s eye as duplicitous, untrustworthy, and totally corrupt. A Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuting attorney, James Kidney used the occasion of his retirement to reveal that higher ups had squelched his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other “banks too big to fail,” because his SEC bosses were not focused on justice but “on getting high-paying jobs after their government service” by protecting the banks from prosecution for their illegal actions. http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/09/65578/

The US Agency for International Development has been caught trying to use social media to overthrow the government of Cuba. http://rt.com/news/cuba-usaid-senate-zunzuneo-241/

This audacious recklessness comes on top of Washington’s overthrow of the Ukrainian government, the NSA spying scandal, Seymour Hersh’s investigative report that the Sarin gas attack in Syria was a false flag event arranged by NATO member Turkey in order to justify a US military attack on Syria, Washington’s forcing down Bolivian President Evo Morales’ presidential plane to be searched, Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” the misuse of the Libyan no-fly resolution for military attack, and on and on. Essentially, Washington has so badly damaged other countries’ confidence in the judgment and integrity of the US government that the world has lost its belief in US leadership. Washington is reduced to threats and bribes and increasingly presents as a bully.

There is much more in the article worth reading, including comments about 9/11 which will conveniently allow people to dismiss his whole piece if they want to remain in denial about the rogue actions of our dead democracy.

For those people, they can read the empty threats coming from politicians like Pat Williams, who ends his opinion piece with this:

Perhaps, just perhaps, the nations of the world will adopt responsibility and respect toward neighbors with the understanding that watchful United Nations, NATO and U.S. military forces are ever present just over the horizon.

Every empire has an expiration date. That is something history teaches us. And no empire has been immune. People who deny that historical fact in preference of the dangerous delusions of American Exceptionalism are leading us to increasingly disastrous confrontations.

by lizard

Wall Street has corrupted its regulators and when Obama says he’s going to do something about it, he’s lying. This isn’t news, but it is an important reality to revisit periodically.

James Kidney, a retiring SEC trial lawyer, decided to clearly state what many already know: the SEC is a “Bankster turnpike“. From Bloomberg:

The SEC has become “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors,” Kidney said, according to a copy of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg News. “On the rare occasions when enforcement does go to the penthouse, good manners are paramount. Tough enforcement, risky enforcement, is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening.”

Kidney said his superiors were more focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service than on bringing difficult cases. The agency’s penalties, Kidney said, have become “at most a tollbooth on the bankster turnpike.”

In reporting on this moment of honesty from a SEC insider, Eric Zeusse’s piece at Counterpunch reminds us of Obama’s empty rhetoric:

Kidney’s speech said that his superiors did not “believe in afflicting the comfortable and powerful.”

Referring to the agency’s public-relations tactic of defending its prosecution-record by use of what he considered to be misleading statistics, Kidney said, “It’s a cancer” at the SEC.

Two recent studies have provided additional depth to Kidney’s assertions, by showing that Obama and his Administration had lied when they promised to prosecute Wall Street executives who had cheated outside investors, and deceived homebuyers, when creating and selling mortgage-backed securities for sale to investors throughout the world.

President Obama personally led in this lying.

On May 20, 2009, at the signing into law of both the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, Obama said: “This bill nearly doubles the FBI’s mortgage and financial fraud program, allowing it to better target fraud in hard-hit areas. That’s why it provides the resources necessary for other law enforcement and federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the SEC to the Secret Service, to pursue these criminals, bring them to justice, and protect hardworking Americans affected most by these crimes. It’s also why it expands DOJ’s authority to prosecute fraud that takes place in many of the private institutions not covered under current federal bank fraud criminal statutes — institutions where more than half of all subprime mortgages came from as recently as four years ago.”

Then, in the President’s 24 January 2012 State of the Union Address, he said: “Tonight, I’m asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. (Applause.) This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans. Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy.”

However, two years later, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued on 13 March 2014 its “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud,” and reported that Obama’s promises to prosecute turned out to be just a lie. DOJ didn’t even try; and they lied even about their efforts. The IG found: “DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest criminal threat in its lowest crime category. Additionally, we found mortgage fraud to be a low priority, or not [even] listed as a priority, for the FBI Field Offices we visited.” Not just that, but, “Many Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) informed us about underreporting and misclassification of mortgage fraud cases.” This was important because, “Capturing such information would allow DOJ to … better evaluate its performance in targeting high-profile offenders.”

Recently High Frequency Trading (HFT) has gotten some media scrutiny. There was another opportunity to scrutinize HFT after the Flash Crash on May 6th, 2010, but the obvious corruption of regulators ensures there are no serious threats to raking in the cash, no matter how risky strategies like HFT continue to be.

So the New York Times will write nice articles describing why interest in a tax has been “revived”, but I suspect the reason this sensible populist tax is getting some pre-midterm election attention is so candidates can stump on it then do not a goddamn thing about it in office. From the NYT:

It’s not every day that you find a fan club for new taxes, especially among economists and legal experts.

But a burst of outrage in recent days generated by Michael Lewis’s new book about the adverse consequences of high-frequency trading on Wall Street has revived support in some quarters for a tax on financial transactions, with backers arguing that a tiny surcharge on trades would have many benefits.

“It kills three birds with one stone,” said Lynn A. Stout, a professor at Cornell Law School, who has long followed issues of corporate governance and securities regulation. “From a public policy perspective, it’s a no-brainer.”

Not only would the tax reduce risk and volatility in the market, Professor Stout said, but it would also raise much-needed revenue for public coffers while making it modestly more expensive to engage in a practice that brings little overall economic benefit.

Sounds great, doesn’t it. But who believes there’s a real chance that common sense can translate to political policy, especially when that policy is specifically designed to take one of the money-making toys from the dangerous brats on Wall Street?

Instead, we need to remember that the current administration consistently lies about what it intends to do for political gain, and by remembering those lies maybe we can avoid falling for future lies from presumptive candidates, like Hillary Clinton, who will continue to wield the wealth of the .01% to protect their ill-gotten gains from the pitchforks.

by lizard

Journalists vs. Bloggers: a profession scrapping with unpaid information insurgents. Maybe Congress should spend some time defining which forms of media deserve special protection. Chuck Schumer thinks it’s a good idea, and he’s a Democrat, so what is there to worry about?

The bill’s protections would apply to a “covered journalist,” defined as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.

It would apply to student journalists or someone with a considerable amount of freelance work in the last five years. A federal judge also would have the discretion to declare an individual a “covered journalist” who would be granted the privileges of the law.

The bill also says that information is only privileged if it is disseminated by a news medium, described as “newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, news agency, news website, mobile application or other news or information service (whether distributed digitally or otherwise); news program, magazine or other periodical, whether in print, electronic or other format; or thorough television or radio broadcast … or motion picture for public showing.”

While the definition covers traditional and online media, it draws the line at posts on Twitter, blogs or other social media websites by non-journalists.

I wonder why such protections are needed. Could it be the Obama administration is hostile toward journalists?

Today the Committee to Protect Journalists unveiled a detailed, sober assessment of press freedom in the United States during President Obama’s tenure. The report concluded that far from fulfilling his campaign promise to improve transparency, the president has instead presided over an unprecedented campaign to contain leaks and to control media coverage of government operations.

The fact that the CPJ issued the report at all underscores how hostile official policy has been to journalists. While the CPJ has reported on press freedoms in countries around the world since the early 1980s, this is its first investigation focused on the United States. Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, wrote the report, with input from several dozen Washington journalists, media advocates and former government officials.

Downie told The Nation he was most surprised by the unanimity of those reporters about the ways the administration has made their jobs more difficult. The level of specificity the many journalists were able to provide convinced him that the problems were pervasive and exceptional. “The Obama administration’s aggressive war on leaks and its determined efforts to control information that the news media needs to hold the government accountable for its actions are without equal since the Nixon administration,” he said at a press conference this morning.

Locally, the media’s clumsy control of information looks like this. In this local space, progressive bloggers can lament about the effects of vulture capitalism.

It’s a completely different ball game when Seymour Hersh continues to be quarantined to the London Review of Books for bombshell disclosures like possible Turkish involvement in the Sarin attack that nearly triggered a hot US intervention in Syria.

For us bloggers who entertain false flag provocateur possibilities, Hersh’s exemplary journalistic efforts provide a much-appreciated validation of learned skepticism:

The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

I don’t blame “covered journalists” for getting included in the Free Flow of Information Act. Good for them. I hope they can comfortably snuggle in beneath that narrowly defined umbrella.

And let the blogging fringe just carry on flapping in the wind.

First Shots

by lizard

Yesterday I finally took out my Ruger for some target practice. A friend who actually knows what he’s doing took me to the Deer Creek Shooting Center in East Missoula. I had a blast (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Earlier in the day I went to Sportsmen Warehouse to get some ear muffs, glasses and ammo. I asked a guy at the counter what the best kind of ammo to get for a Ruger Mark III, and he kind of gave me this look like I was crazy or stupid, then said basically whatever kind of .22 rounds you can find. Since I’m new with all this, I didn’t realize how insane the consumer demand for ammo still is. Coincidentally, I just ran across this Missoulian article about a half hour ago on Twitter. Here’s a snip:

Ammunition manufacturers, such as ATK in Lewiston have been hounded so frequently from consumers and media, they’re posting FAQs about ammo shortages on their websites.

Like other companies, ATK referred The Spokesman-Review’s interview request to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Mike Bazinet, NSSF public affairs director, said he’s fielded about 100 ammunition-related media queries in the past month.

“The main questions?” he said: “What’s the cause of the ammo shortage? Is it abating?

Bazinet dismisses rumors that the federal Department of Homeland Security has been stocking up and hoarding ammunition.

“A federal report from the Government Accountability Office two months ago said DHS purchases actually are lower than in the past,” he said.

Recent news about the U.S. Postal Service stockpiling ammo was blown out of proportion on the Internet, he said.

“It was for a small law enforcement arm of postal inspectors, not for mail carriers,” he said, noting the purchases were insignificant to the market.

Bazinet said the bottom line for ammunition shortages is consumer demand. Increased sales triggered even more demand as shooters stockpiled as much ammunition as they could get their hands on, he said.

After probably realizing I was a total novice, the guy pointed me to the few boxes of ammo they had left on the shelves.

Later, at the range, my new Ruger didn’t perform well. My friend had two ideas about what the problem might be. First he thought maybe it was the ammo. The bullets just weren’t feeding into the chamber smoothly from the clip, and it looked like maybe the tip of the bullets were slowing the action of the spring in the clip. As he fiddled, he was able to fire off a few rounds, which led to his next thought that maybe the Ruger was so new that its guts were stiff.

Since the first attempts at shooting my pistol weren’t going well, my friend offered to let me try his .44 revolver. I was hesitant, but relented and damn. That is not a caliber of handgun I’d be interested in owning, but it certainly put my Ruger in context.

After more attempts my Ruger seemed to loosen up a bit and would fire multiple rounds, but the action from the clip still feels a little hinky. Or maybe it’s the ammo. I’m not sure.

I’ve obviously still got a whole lot to learn, but I’m glad to finally start demystifying a tool only rendered dangerous by the various abilities and intentions of its relative users.

By JC

In today’s edition of “Views From Inside the Fishbowl”, we have retired Congressman and professor Pat Williams weighing in on the putsch in Ukraine, and the subsequent overwhelming vote of Crimeans’ desire for self-determination to return to the Russian Federation.

Seems that  it is this sort of world view that separates those that are immersed in American propaganda and empire building, from those who are not:

“…That word “empire” applies to only one nation, the United States. We reject it, of course, because it smacks of imperialism with which we are entirely uncomfortable. Our destiny, as Americans see it, is to be a welcoming beacon of freedom….

Ours is the benevolent voice of benign empire… America accepts the obligation of a powerful and free people to assist others around the world with purity of purpose and without the constant calculation of self-interest….

Perhaps, just perhaps, the nations of the world will adopt responsibility and respect toward neighbors with the understanding that watchful United Nations, NATO and U.S. military forces are ever present just over the horizon.”

Read the whole thing to understand what has happened to Democrat’s vision of foreign policy. Williams deftly outlines what will become known as the Obama Doctrine: “the benevolent voice of benign empire.”

Joseph Goebbels would be proud to see how his writings have reached across time and space to influence empire builders in the 21st century, and the concepts taught to a new generation of youth.

by lizard

In the ongoing debate regarding the role of the US in destabilizing other countries, the AP broke a significant story about how the US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest:

In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company’s ties to the U.S. government.

McSpedon didn’t work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press and multiple interviews with people involved in the project, the plan was to develop a bare-bones “Cuban Twitter,” using cellphone text messaging to evade Cuba’s strict control of information and its stranglehold restrictions over the Internet. In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo — slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.

If USAID has been used to destabilize Cuba, what else lurks beneath the veneer of humanitarian aid? Like in Ukraine?

As the United States readies $1 billion in loan guarantees to the new government in Ukraine, along with even more aid for reforming elections and cleaning up corruption, one thing is clear: The public is unlikely to know where that money is going for some time, if ever.

Since 1992, the U.S. has sent $3 billion to $5 billion in aid to Ukraine, with only cursory public disclosure. The U.S. State Department operates an online database, ForeignAssistance.gov, but names of foreign recipients are often left out, and entire sections are blank. Furthermore, the disclosure often comes long after the money has been distributed.

“It is incredibly hard to find this kind of information,” Nicole Valentinuzzi, communications manager for Publish What You Fund, an international organization promoting transparency for foreign aid.

In post-coup Ukraine, things are getting dicey. A “far-right activist” was gunned down by police last month and the Daily Beast is openly wondering if Ukraine can control their far-right ultra-nationalists.

For more background, The Nation has a piece titled Seven Decades of Nazi Collaboration: America’s Dirty Little Ukraine Secret. Apparently, for the US, supporting fascists and Nazis is nothing new.

For a more local take, Intelligent Discontent’s perennial cheerleader of US interventions, the Polish Wolf, has decided to feature anonymous comments from Ukrainians regarding the post-coup crisis they are now experiencing. The gist? The comments PW cultivated express dismay at being abandoned, a desire for nuclear weapons, and admiration for sociopaths like John McCain.

*I had initially included the comments featured in PW’s post here, for the convenience of our readers, but Don made an issue out of it, so you’ll have to go over to his place to read them.

by lizard

In America, if you are a DuPont heir, you can rape your 3 year old daughter and get no jail time:

A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he “will not fare well” in prison.

In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.

Richards is the great grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, a chemical baron.

Also in America, if you are a poor black woman without a home or child care, you will definitely get arrested and spend time in jail for multiple counts of felony child abuse for leaving your kids in a car during a job interview:

A mom in Arizona is now facing child abuse charges for allegedly leaving her two young children in a hot car while she interviewed for a job, reports CBS affiliate KPHO.

Shanesha Taylor, 35, mother of the 2-year-old and 6-month-old kids, was arrested on March 20. She now faces two felony counts of child abuse.

According to Scottsdale police, a witness heard a child crying inside a Dodge Durango that was parked in an office parking lot around 12:30 p.m. The witness informed authorities that the vehicle was parked directly in the sun. KPHO reports that the witness told police the car’s engine was off, the doors were closed and the windows were only slightly opened.

Police arrived on the scene and were able to get the children out of the vehicle. Officers said Taylor returned about 45 minutes after they were informed of the situation and told them that she did not have anyone to watch her kids while she went on the interview, according to the station.

“She was upset. This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job. Obviously not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation,” said Scottsdale Police Sergeant Mark Clark.

I really can’t imagine a more obscene class-based juxtaposition than this.

While my visceral reaction to the piece of shit DuPont heir lowlife who the judge thought “will not fare well” in prison is to hope he will someday get what he deserves, I’m not sure extended solitary confinement in an American prison is a horror I would wish even on the most depraved members of our society.

Yesterday Democracy Now ran a piece on the awful abuses of solitary confinement and its torturous impact on the disproportionate amount of mentally ill inmates in our prison system.

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/4/1/treating_humans_worse_than_animals_prison

In that same hour Democracy Now examined the police situation in Albuquerque, focusing on the lethal shooting of a homeless veteran.

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/4/1/the_bounty_police_force_albuquerque_officers

Montana is not immune to the crisis of the US prison system. The ACLU and Disability Rights Montana have raised major concerns about how people with mental illness are being treated in Montana prisons. Here is a lengthy quote from the link:

The ACLU of Montana, on behalf of its client Disability Rights Montana, is challenging the treatment of prisoners with mental illness at Montana State Prison and the Montana State Hospital. A year-long investigation at those institutions revealed a pattern at Montana State Prison of withholding medication, misdiagnosing prisoners with a long history of mental illness, and punishing them for behavior caused by their mental illness. Prisoners with mental illness are routinely subjected to months or years of solitary confinement and “behavior modification plans” that deprive them of clothing, working toilets, bedding and proper food. This serves only to worsen their illness and cause needless suffering.

“In our investigation of the prison and its practices, we have uncovered shocking and inhumane treatment of people who are mentally ill,” said Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, executive director of Disability Rights Montana.

Constitutional violations and poor mental health practices at Montana State Prison addressed in our letter to the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Health and Human Services include:

  • A troubling pattern of the prison psychiatrist meeting for just minutes with prisoners with mental illness before finding that they are “faking it,” in spite of significant histories of mental illness;
  • Refusing to provide prisoners with necessary psychiatric medications;
  • Routine imposition of solitary confinement and/or “behavior modification plans” depriving prisoners of clothing, bedding, human contact, a working toilet and proper food as punishment for behaviors caused by mental illness;
  • “Wellness checks” in solitary confinement that consist of a weekly knock at the cell door where any conversation can be overheard by guards and other prisoners;
  • Inadequate mental health staff and training;
  • and Providing just 12 mental health beds in a prison with more than 275 prisoners with mental illness.

In addition, people sentenced “Guilty But Mentally Ill,” and sent to the Montana State Hospital for treatment are routinely transferred to Montana State Prison because Montana State Hospital staff does not want to treat problem patients or they need beds for other patients. These very ill patients have no real opportunity to challenge these transfers from a hospital setting to the prison where mental health care is virtually nonexistent and they are punished for their mental illness.

“This is about a prison mental health system that is making prisoners sicker,” said Anna Conley, ACLU of Montana staff attorney. “What is happening at the Montana State Prison and the Montana State Hospital is not only illegal; it goes against common sense. We should be providing mental health care that helps these prisoners rather than treating them in ways that exacerbate their condition.”

It’s too bad it takes lawsuits to bring these abuses to the attention of the public. It’s also too bad Missoula wasted so much time and energy on ordinances (sponsored by the alleged progressive, Caitlin Copple) to ban sitting on sidewalks instead of examining more substantive fixes to the systemic failures that will continue without significant intervention.

Pointing fingers at jail staff and law enforcement ignores the many failures that occur before police involvement and incarceration. I’m actually hopeful that good people within law enforcement and the corrections system are invested in trying to improve how they react to people in crisis.

But it’s not just on them to make improvements. It’s on all of us.




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