Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's Sunday

Replace your religion.

Injustice Writ Large

Dr. Shakir Hamoodi, an Iraqi-American nuclear engineer [...] just began a three-year prison sentence at the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas penitentiary for the "crime" of sending sustenance money to his impoverished, sick, and suffering relatives in Iraq - including his blind mother - during the years when US sanctions (which is what caused his family's suffering) barred the sending of any money to Iraq.

Yesterday in Columbia, Missouri, I met with Hamoodi's son, Owais, a medical student at the University of Missouri (MU) School of Medicine, and Hamoodi's son-in-law, Amir Yehia, a Master's student in MU's School of Journalism. The travesty of this case - and the havoc it has wreaked on the entire family - is repellent and genuinely infuriating. But it is sadly common in post-9/11 America, especially for American Muslim communities.

  Glenn Greenwald

Dr. Hamoodi ran, with his family, a wonderful food import store in Columbia. Numerous encounters with the Hamoodis proved to me that they are a lovely, kind family. The type of people you want and are lucky to have in your community. I still have a hard time believing this has happened to them. Dr. Hamoodi became a US citizen in 2002 (according to Greenwald's article), and all his children were born and raised in Columbia, Missouri. When the U.S. Invaded Iraq, Dr. Hamoodi was asked and spoke to a group of Columbians (myself included) who gathered to stage a peaceful protest march against the invasion... 

But in 2002 and 2003, Hamoodi was not just a nuclear engineer. He was also a very outspoken critic of the Bush administration's plan to attack Iraq. And his position as a nuclear engineer made him a particularly potent threat to the case for that invasion, as he continuously insisted that Saddam did not have an active nuclear weapons program and that the case for the war was grounded in lies. In his antiwar activism, he emphasized how much already-suffering Iraqi civilians would suffer more, and how the invasion would lead to mass instability.


US-imposed sanctions after the First Gulf War had decimated the value of Iraqi currency and were causing extreme hardship for his large family who remained in Iraq. That sanctions regime caused the death of at least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including 500,000 Iraqi children. In 1991, the writer Chuck Sudetic visited Iraq, wrote in Mother Jones about the pervasive suffering, starvation and mass death he witnessed first-hand, and noted that the US-led sanctions regime "killed more civilians than all the chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons used in human history".


Because sending money into Iraq from the US was physically impossible, [Dr. Hamoodi] set up a bank account in Jordan and proceeded to make small deposits into it. From that account, small amounts of money - between $20 and $100 - were dispersed each month to his family members.


From 1993 until 2003, when the sanctions regime was lifted after the US invasion, Hamoodi sent an average of $25,000 each year back to Iraq [including money given to him by other Iraqis living in Columbia for their families], totaling roughly $250,000 over the decade: an amount that fed and sustained the Iraqi relatives of 14 families in Columbia, Missouri, including his wife's five siblings.


Everyone, including the US government, acknowledges that these funds were sent to and received only by the intended recipients - suffering Iraqi family members - and never got anywhere near Saddam's regime, terrorist groups, or anything illicit.


The sanctions regime decimated Hamoodi's family. His elderly blind mother was unable to buy basic medication. His sister, one of 11 siblings back in Iraq, suffered a miscarriage because she was unable to buy $10 antibiotics. His brother, a surgeon, was earning the equivalent of $2 per month and literally unable to feed his family.

And we would be calling Dr. Hamoodi a monster if he had turned his back on them while living in the US earning a comfortable living for himself.

Thanks to Glenn Greenwald (who spoke recently at the University of Missouri – video to be posted at Glenn's site shortly - apparently it was packed - very good - and they had to turn people away - not so good) for picking up this story, giving it a thorough analysis, and offering links to a petition to the White House asking for a commuted sentence, and to donations to help the Hamoodi family.

It's Sunday

In a column and video posted by the official newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and obtained by Right Wing Watch on Wednesday, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki called out the Democratic Party for temporarily removing God from their platform, supporting abortion and recognizing that “gay rights are human rights.”


“Again, I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against,” he concluded, “but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

  Raw Story

But go ahead and vote for whomever you want.

Mr. Romney's advisers have privately urged him to "rescind and replace President Obama's executive order" and permit secret "enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives," according to an internal Romney campaign memorandum. While the memo is a policy proposal drafted by Mr. Romney's advisers in September 2011 — not a final decision by him — its detailed analysis dovetails with his rare and limited public comments about interrogation. "We'll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now," he said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December.


If you vote for Willard Romney, the International Harvester, you are voting for more torture. Period.

  Charlie Pierce

Torture - that's not "intrinsically evil and gravely sinful," is it?

It's Sunday

Saturday morning I heard an NPR segment with a female conductor regarding a Leonard Bernstein symphony she is now presenting. Her essay on it is at NPR here, as well as the NPR audio segment, which offers more revelation about the work.

I sometimes think there is no way in which I have not approached religion and belief in God (and found it wanting 9 times out of 10), but there was a surprise in this piece for me. And that in itself is surprising, because it is so simple (and probably most of you have already thought of it). In this work, judgment day becomes man's judgment on God, not the other way round. (For a wonderful piece treating judgment day as man's judgment on himself – individually – turn to Red Dwarf, the excellent 1980s British comedy science fiction TV series, episode: The Inquisitor.)

My immediate reaction to Bernstein's idea is that, indeed, if it turned out there truly was a God at the end of it all whom we all meet, it is he who will need to ask for my forgiveness. And then, of course, the question would be, “Can I forgive him?”

All this is a lot of psychological jumbo, but not mumbo. After all, our whole existence is really about our psychology. Everything we do is a result of our psychology. Further in the Bernstein work, God and man are interconnected so that one cannot not exist without the other, which clearly, on a psychological level, makes one a reflection of the other, and to argue which is “real” and which a “reflection” would only be splitting hairs. They're the same. And then the question becomes, “Can I forgive myself?”

This is a masterful piece of work from Bernstein, who belongs with the great writers of symphonies whose works have lasted centuries. If you're inclined to give any consideration to human psychology, peace, war, love and forgiveness, check out the NPR segment and the essay.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Banned Books Week

"The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read."
-- Mark Twain

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. The American Library Association is "celebrating the freedom to read." Exercise your freedom.  Maybe read something from the list of "banned and challenged classics" or "most frequently challenged books of 2011."  

Can you believe that "To Kill a Mockingbird" is still number 10 on the list in 2011?  No doubt it's up there every year.  It's number 4 on the classics list.  The reason:  "offensive language and racism."  Since I can't think of any other possible choices, I'm assuming the "offensive language" is the word "nigger."  We can't even read the word??  Sadly, people do still even speak it, and pretending they don't, or trying to prevent us from reading that word coming from a character in a book, does absolutely nothing to alter that fact. Never in the history of the world has hiding something removed it. The book exposes racism, which is the only way to begin to change something.  Perhaps that's the real reason people want it banned. 

If you haven't read "To Kill a Mockingbird," even if you've seen the Gregory Peck movie (and while Peck was good, Mary Badham owned that movie), do yourself a favor and read Harper Lee's novel.  It's not just a great story, it's beautifully written. 

I can't understand why we still have a system that allows people an avenue to have books banned.  But then, we still have a system that allows people to be detained indefinitely without charge and tortured.  How enlightened we are.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hooray for Austin!

The council’s strongly worded resolution (PDF) condemning the Defense of Marriage Act, the nation’s ban on same sex marriage, was supported by a diverse coalition of civil rights groups, including Equality Texas, the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Anti-Defamation League and the Human Rights Campaign. The resolution was also backed by a petition signed by more than 1,800 people living in and around the Austin metro area. It passed by unanimous vote shortly after 11 a.m. Central, which happened to coincide with events in Washington, D.C. promoting National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

  Raw Story

And the second Texas city to endorse marriage equality will coincide with the day that Satan skates to work.

Actually, Austin isn't really a Texas city. It's a progressive city that happens to lie inside the Texas borders.  We still wonder how it got here.

"Progressive."  What I really mean is that Austin is actually in the 21st century, unlike much of the rest of this country.

The Financial Crisis in Europe

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Come A-Waltzing Matilda with Me

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

And May I Just Put in a Word...

I periodically read scathing remarks from self-described liberals chastising anyone who doesn't want to vote for Obama this year. This morning I read some comments shredding someone who wrote a column about why he couldn't vote for Obama and was going to vote for Gary Johnson instead. Many of the comments were probably correct in questioning the vote for Gary Johnson, but most of them were nasty in tone, pointing out what a waste of space the writer is. Here's a sample:

“And so, after much reflection and navel gazing, Conor has concluded that he shall  cast his lot for, and snuggle into, the warm and wooly moral embrace of  Ron Paul Lite Gary Johnson because the actual symbolism of voting for Johnson will form an impenetrable protective shield over Pakistani civilians and then Conor can sleep better at night knowing that he has symbolically prolonged a life as opposed to, you know, voting for someone who is actually going to be President and actually, you know, do an actual stuff in the real world. “


“[...] the actual symbolism of voting for Johnson will form an impenetrable protective shield over Pakistani civilians and then Conor can sleep better at night.” Gold. Because it’s apparently not really about policies that affect others; no, it’s all about how Conor feels about Conor’s feelings and things that matter most to Conor in that cute abstract and privileged way. Not that there’s anything wrong with all of that if you happen to be Conor, but it sure as hell doesn’t mean anyone else should follow his advice.

"Not really about policies that affect others." So, apparently, it's okay to vote for Obama in order to (supposedly) have better conditions here at home, and who gives a rat's ass about foreigners?  Foreigners don't even make it to the scale of  "others". 

These so-called liberals don't even seem to recognize the irony - something they often rightfully accuse conservatives of missing - in demanding we vote for someone solely on the basis of domestic policies while denegrating us if we vote for someone else on the basis of foreign policies. 

And let me further point out the very short-sightedness of that concept:  our domestic policies (health care, education, taxes, etc.) will take a hell of a lot longer to affect the entire world than our foreign policies do, and what affects the world affects us.  Are these people unable to see how our foreign policies are affecting us? 

And furthermore, it's not at all a foregone conclusion that Mitt Rmoney would actually effect a radical difference in our domestic policies any more than will happen with Obama.  Unless, of course, he uses that unprecedented executive privilege, that Mr. Obama has been so keen to garner for the White House, to override whatever BS the Congress haggles out, which is something they are guaranteed to continue doing.

But, even deeper than all that, these "liberals" appear to be too close to the ground to see that whichever way one decides to vote this year - for Obama on domestic policies - or for Mitt Rmoney on whatever you could possibly think of to vote for Mitt Rmoney on - they are still playing the game that keeps us trapped in this unsatisfactory and world-affecting situation: there are only two teams that get to play in this game.  And this is not amateur politics; both teams are bought and paid for - owned.  Until we pull out of it, withdraw our support for it, it doesn't matter which team you vote for, because you - and the whole world - are going to end up with a nasty mess.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More Trouble for Rmoney

ProgressOhio announced Monday that it had filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, alleging that Murray Energy made an illegal corporate contribution to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Coal miners in Ohio said they feared being fired if they did not attend an August 14 event with the Republican presidential nominee. Images from the event are now being used in a pro-Romney ad.

“It is clear from published reports by executives at Murray Energy that employees were mandated to attend the August 14 Romney rally after closing the mine,” said Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of ProgressOhio. “Clearly the use of these miners in television ads is meant to convey something of value to the Romney campaign and is therefore a violation of federal law.”

  Raw Story

Rmoney Doesn't Want to Allow Teachers Union Money in Campaigns

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared at a multi-day “Education Nation” event co-hosted by NBC News in New York City .


“We simply can’t have a setup where the teachers unions can contribute tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of politicians and then those politicians, when elected, stand across from them at the bargaining table, supposedly to represent the interests of the kids. I think it’s a mistake. I think we’ve got to get the money out of the teachers unions going into campaigns. It’s the wrong way for us to go. We’ve got to separate that.”

  Raw Story

So, just to be clear: corporate campaign cash - good; union campaign cash - bad.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Let's Think About Something Else for a Bit

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


Going Down

Going all the way down.

According to a report by Sentier Research “real median annual household income… has fallen by 4.8 percent since the ‘economic recovery’ began in June 2009.”

That’s worse than the 2.6 percent decline that took place during the recession itself.


The Sentier Research report comes on the heels of a similar report from the Fed which was released in June showing that middle class families saw a nearly 40 percent decline in their net worth between the years 2007 to 2010.

  Counter Punch

As 13 million people in the US languish without work, the federal government has intensified its drive to shut off extended unemployment benefits, ending the only source of cash income for millions of families.

Over 500,000 people have lost extended unemployment benefits since the start of the year, and two million more are scheduled to lose their benefits on January 1, 2013.


The [...] federal unemployment benefits program, known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), is scheduled to end completely on January 1, ending unemployment payments for 2 million more people overnight.

With the start of the new year, there will be no part of the country that offers more than 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. This is far less than the average duration of unemployment, which has hovered near 40 weeks for over a year.


Currently 40 percent of the jobless population have been out of work for six months or longer, while 30 percent have been unemployed for a year or more. Prior to the present recession, the highest-ever recorded percentage of people out of work for more than 6 months was 26 percent.


In the ruthless calculations of the financial oligarchy, the elimination of unemployment benefits for most of the jobless population will make the unemployed even more desperate for work, accepting poverty wages and third-world working conditions.


And that's how you get manufacturing to return to the US.

Happy New Year, Tiny Tim.

Those Were the Days

One of the many myths that have buried the true history of the Vietnam War is that the anti-war movement was motivated by selfish desire, especially among college students, to avoid the draft (a view that conveniently ignores the movement’s throngs of female participants, whose gender automatically exempted them from the draft).  Quite to the contrary, students demonstrating against the draft deferment tests [College Qualification Test, a.k.a. the Selective Service Examination, an “objective” assessment of each test taker’s verbal and mathematical skills, to be used [...] to determine who was entitled to that precious 2S deferment and who should be shipped off to Vietnam] were specifically undermining and targeting their own privileges and exemptions, which, as they passionately argued, came at the expense of poor and working class people.  At Stanford, a number of people actually disrupted the test.  The young men involved thus proved that their goal was not to avoid the draft but to end it, since they had been explicitly warned that their actions would jeopardize their own deferments.  When students filed in to take the Selective Service test, other demonstrators handed them the SDS “alternative test” on the history of U.S.-Vietnam relations.  About ninety students organized a sit-in in the President’s office.  In a manifesto issued from the sit-in they denounced their own privileged status: “We oppose the administration of the Selective Service Examination . . . because it discriminates against those who by virtue of economic deprivation are at a severe disadvantage in taking such a test. . . . [The] less privileged, Negroes, Spanish-Americans, and poor whites, must fight a war in the name of principles such as freedom and equality of opportunity which their own nation has denied them.”  “Conscription,” they declared, has throughout American history “invariably been biased in favor of the wealthy and privileged.”

Enter young Mitt Romney, right on cue, waving a sign denouncing the anti-war students.   He, like his fellow almost all-male participants in this pro-war demonstration, fervently argued in support of the war and the draft.  But not, of course, for himself.

When Mitt enrolled at Stanford back in the spring of 1965, [...d]raftees were not yet being used in combat.   So Mitt and his dad clearly intended the fall of 1965 to be the beginning of a fine four-year career at Stanford for the young man.  But Mitt’s last month as a Stanford student was May 1966.  Why?

Although the Selective Service Exam radically reduced the chances of college men, especially those with the test-taking skills of most Stanford students, to be conscripted into the Vietnam War, it was no guarantee of long-lasting deferment.  There were other, surer, escapes from the Vietnam nightmare.   One of the very best was the ministry. 


And maybe Mitt's grades weren't good enough to ensure a dodge of the draft? But I'm stuck on marvelling at the fact that privileged Stanford students were protesting the unfairness of the draft. I can't imagine finding even 90 these days.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Monday, September 24, 2012

That's Some Spin

Four years after the height of the financial crisis, marked by a drastic drop in salaries, the United States is again finding favor among manufacturers.

Out on the campaign trail ahead of the November 6 elections, President Barack Obama has picked up on the point to convince voters that the US economy is back on track.

  Raw Story

Are you kidding me? What this says is that the economy is so bad that US workers can now compete for low wages against third world countries, thus lessening the attractiveness of moving manufacturing overseas.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.


Maybe a little less time suing Samsung for allegedly copying your product and a little more time perfecting it.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Fox News: Romney Campaign Headquarters"

Part 1

Part 2

Voter ID Laws

As described by Sarah Silverman.

If you're at work or have the kiddies nearby, you might want to keep the sound low.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

What the Republicans Aren't Arguing

The Republicans don’t want to discuss [the Obama administration's] tax cheating, offshoring, corruption, inequality, dissent, [trashing of] the rule of law, endless war, or Street criminality. They’d rather lose. [...] Those arguments are worse for the political class, and better for the public. And that is how elections operate in authoritarian America. The secondary goal is to win the election, the primary goal is to keep the public out of the deal-making.

  Naked Capitalism

Preemptive Cyber Warfare

From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America's first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

Mr Obama decided to accelerate the attacks – begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games – even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran's Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet.


It appears to be the first time the United States has repeatedly used cyberweapons to cripple another country's infrastructure, achieving, with computer code, what until then could be accomplished only by bombing a country or sending in agents to plant explosives.


Cyberattacks can amount to armed attacks triggering the right of self-defense and are subject to international laws of war, the State Department's top lawyer said Tuesday.

Spelling out the US government's position on the rules governing cyberwarfare, Harold Koh, the department's legal adviser, said a cyber-operation that results in death, injury or significant destruction would probably be seen as a use of force in violation of international law.


Of course, Koh's argument would only constitute a defense of Iran's right to attack the US if the rights claimed by the US applied to other countries, so there's nothing to worry about.

  Glenn Greenwald

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Rest of the Story

That leaked video from earlier this year didn't just show that Mitt Rmoney bad-mouthed “47%” of the American population he says are lazy, welfare-grubbing, Obama supporting, leaches on the people of value in this country, but he also uttered this gem (not meant to become publicized, of course):

In the latest episode of the Secret Romney Tapes™, our hero decides to tackle the Middle East. Basically, he trashes a two-state solution because he thinks the Palestinians have "no interest whatsoever in establishing peace."


"So what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem....and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it."

  Mother Jones

Brilliant. Actually, his whole campaign seems to be predicated on the hope that " ultimately, somehow, something will happen" and he'll get elected. Or not. I don't think he really cares.

And since he has apparently been using Jimmy Carter as a punching bag on the campaign trail, it's especially satisfying to note that the man who stumbled onto that video is none other than Jimmy's grandson.

Just Go Back to Bed

Clint Eastwood is continuing to stand behind a bizarre speech that the gave at the Republican National Convention last month and says if that if Mitt Romney’s campaign was “dumb enough” to ask him to speak then they deserve what they got.

“People loved it or hated it, and that’s fine,” the 82-year-old actor told Extra‘s Jerry Penacoli. “I figure if somebody’s dumb enough to ask me to go to a political convention and say something, they’re gonna have to take what they get.”

And Eastwood said that he would probably do it all again.

“I never look backward. It’s done and it’s done. I probably would, I wouldn’t be afraid of it.”

  Raw Story

Yeah, right. Anything to keep his face in the public eye. But nice try, Clint. You simply aren't funny. And you should have rehearsed. After that performance, it really will take somebody dumb to ask you to speak. Some people didn't love or hate it, Doddering Harry, they just wondered where your nurse was.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Some People Are Funnier Than Others

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan

Afghan insurgents who staged a daring, well-planned raid on Camp Bastion, the military base where Britain's Prince Harry is deployed, were wearing U.S. Army uniforms, NATO said a day after the attack.


At least two U.S. Marines were killed in the brazen strike late on Friday, and six jets were destroyed, ISAF said as it released more details about the raid.


Separately, four American troops were killed by Afghan police on Sunday.


Sunday's killings came only a day after the British Ministry of Defence announced that two troops had been killed in Helmand province's Nahr-e Saraj district. In that attack, a man wearing an Afghan police uniform fatally shot two members of the 3rd Battalion at a checkpoint


Good One, Charlie

The Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me panel this weekend was asked to come up with the next YouTube video that will cause a riot, and this was Charlie Pierce's offering:

"Catholics protest when Clint Eastwood reenacts the Council of Trent with an entire dining room set."

Art Linkletter Was Right - Part 2

New China skyscraper.

Art Linkletter Was Right

Peopel are funny.

A woman who went missing in Iceland over the weekend was reportedly found safe and sound herself.


The mix-up apparently occurred when, during a sight-seeing trip Saturday, the woman broke off from her tourist group and changed clothes, the Reykjavik Grapevine reports, citing Icelandic news website.

When she returned to the bus in a different outfit, the rest of her tour group did not recognize her. Then when a description of the "missing person" was offered - Asian, in dark clothing and speaks English well - the woman seemingly also did not recognize the description as of herself, so she began to assist the others in searching.

The coast guard had been preparing a helicopter to help in the search, the Iceland Review reports.

Hours later, around 3 a.m. Sunday, the search party finally realized that, alas, the woman they were looking for was with them all along, and the search was called off.

Chief of police in Hvolsvöllur Sveinn K. Rúnarsson told that the woman simply didn't recognize the description of herself, and "had no idea that she was missing."

According to the Reykjavik Grapevine, the not-so-missing woman - a tourist - even participated in the intense police search over the weekend

  CBS News

It's Sunday

I came across this post on the wonderfully funny story of the Spanish woman who thought she'd restore a church mural.  Good for another laugh. 

And a comment....

Still laughing. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reality Check

If You're Near the University of Missouri on 9/27

Go hear Glenn Greenwald speak.

Other engagements are listed here: 

(Detroit, San Francisco, Dallas, New Brunswick, Seattle, Davis, San Diego, Tuscon, Boulder, Ottawa)
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The True Stakes Are Not Addressed in Elections

Because politicians' interests are not Americans' interests.  As I'm sure you know.

So while Romney and Clinton are ostensible political opponents, they share more than you’d know just from press reports. The primary difference between them is not a question of fealty to finance, but that Romney made his fortune with Bain Capital before he sought office, whereas Clinton made his afterward.


Bill Clinton can star in a television commercial bashing the deregulation of Wall Street, and then immediately collect cash from Wall Street firms whose industry he deregulated. Barack Obama can say that this election is a choice between a middle-class country and extreme inequality, even as inequality is higher under his administration than it was under George W. Bush’s.


For Clinton, Romney, Obama, etc., finance is just a group of highly intelligent capitalists who make the occasional mistake, and kick back some cash for good measure. They are living in a democratic structure, where their voices are heard and policy changes in response to their needs. For millions of Americans, the financial services industry is a daily terror. Forty percent of young people are now describing themselves as poor, and one out of every seven Americans is being pursued by a debt collector. Student debt loads are staggering, and the possibility of a foreclosure is real for millions of families. These Americans are living, not in a democracy, but in an authoritarian state, where they have no choice but to claw at whatever job or jobs they can get, with no access to legal, political or social rights.


Bill Clinton offers essentially the same belief system as both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, one in which private industry runs the government through payoffs to ex-officials, and government returns the favor through bailouts. If Americans are ever going to grapple with the power of banks over their lives, they are going to have to come to grips with the real track record of their leaders, including Bill Clinton. And it isn’t pretty. And until people like Bill Clinton can be compensated in ways that aren’t obviously corrupting, and their track records honestly assessed, elections will continue to be unimportant, simple popular ratification of an increasingly authoritarian creditor state.


...but hey, do what you will anyway.

ATimely Reminder

[The] only reason the Vatican doesn't get to set people on fire for heresy any longer is that big-government secularists forced them to cut that shit out.

  Whiskey Fire

Friday, September 14, 2012

Speaking of Billmon and Political Manipulation

“These basic disinformation techniques were first pioneered by the totalitarian movements of the 1930s, such as the […] but they’ve been brought to their full fruition by the modern advertising, public relations and political consulting industries. Proving once again that what communism can do, capitalism can do better. One of the things that’s always impressed me about the modern conservative movement -- going back to when Newt Gringrich drew up his list of buzz words to be relentlessly associated with liberals ("corrupt," "degenerate," "depraved," etc.) -- has been the movement’s enthusiastic embrace of propaganda techniques developed by the same political regimes it claims to oppose with its life’s breath.

I guess they’re trying to proving that what totalitarians can do, modern conservatives can also do better. Karl Rove’s White House was, in many ways, the Olympian ideal of a disinformation operation -- a propaganda achievement that will probably never be topped, at least in American politics (God willing). But it looks as if the House Republicans are giving it the old college try. […] The specific disinformation technique in play is one I call "mirror image" (or, when I’m in a Star Trek mood, "Spock with a beard"). It consists of charging the opposing side […] with doing exactly what you yourself have been accused of doing, typically with a hell of a lot more justification.” -- Billmon

  Brad deLong

It’s lesson #1 in the Rovian guidebook. The GOP have gotten so good at it that I think it comes naturally to them any more. They are positively pathological about it, and it still makes my jaw drop every time they do it. Listen for it. You won't have to wait long, I think.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Time Warp

Recently, I was talking with the sister about the current state of affairs in this country, and I said, quite seriously, that I was concerned that we were becoming Germany of the 30s. She concurred. That keeps nagging me, and I’m not feeling any better about it after having just read a lengthy Billmon diary entry from April 2010 entitled The "Epistemic Closing" of the Conservative Mind
which ends:

The ability of an authoritarian movement to build a powerful false narrative -- and then persuade millions of followers not only to believe it but actively defend it against encroaching reality, even in a more-or-less free society -- was clearly demonstrated in Weimar Germany during the 1920s and ’30s.


One can hope the peculiarities of time, place and culture explain much, if not all, of the catastrophic success of that previous experiment, which is unlikely to be repeated now.

But I’m not entirely sure it would be the smart way to bet.

The Other Libyan Protesters

h/t Marty

We're Going to Need More Troops

President Barack Obama formally informed Congress on Friday that he had sent Marine units to Libya and Yemen on an open-ended mission in the aftermath of attacks on American diplomatic missions there. He cited the bloody assault that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three aides at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.


Oh, wait a minute, Sir. You’re not quite done.

At least three people died and 28 others were wounded on Friday after police fought hundreds of protesters who ransacked the U.S. embassy in Tunisia in their fury over a film denigrating the Prophet Mohammad, state television said.


Hang on. There may be more.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On Their High Horse

Hobby Lobby Stores and its founders have filed a federal suit challenging the federal Affordable Care Act’s mandate that its corporate health insurance policy cover certain kinds of birth control as a free preventative service for employees.


The Oklahoma City-based businesses have has some 13,600 employees in 41 states, according to the lawsuit.

The Affordable Care Act - “Obamacare” to its opponents - mandates that a wide range of preventative health care services, including birth control, be offered to women without out-of-pocket expenses.

“Hobby Lobby has always been a tool of the Lord’s work. But now our faith is being challenged by the federal government,” Green said in a teleconference after the suit was filed.

“We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate,” he said.

  Tulsa World

Then maybe you can afford some fines. Your choice.

Tool of the Lord’s work. Tool, anyway.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

No Surprises Here

Poll responses for if the election were held today:  (blue=Dem, red=Rep, of course)

Libyan Consul Attack

Glenn Greenwald has a definitive post in response to Tuesday's attack.  The only thing I coud possibly add is to caution Americans that this is what the US will become if the Righteous Right ever gets well-settled in government.  Religious fanatics, knee-jerk responses, and violence. 


Just Wondering

How long before September 11 is declared a National Holiday?  Comes too close to Labor Day?  I wouldn't be surprised, given our trending national character, if Labor Day were scrapped in favor of having a holidy on September 11
"Patriot, Hyperpatriot, and Scoundrel Day, Including Remembrance, Service, Domestic Foodstuff Euphemisms, and Two Plastic Flags Flapping in the Breeze From Every Vehicle Day".  Unless Arizona already has one.
  Doghouse Riley
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Judge Forrest Comes Through Again

A New York federal judge shot down part of a controversial anti-terror law Wednesday that journalists and scholars worry could see them locked up indefinitely for speaking their minds.

Judge Katherine Forrest issued a ruling that permanently blocked a section of the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Barack Obama at the end of last year authorizing the detention of US citizens accused of supporting terror groups.


The section of the law, signed by Obama on New Year’s Eve, allows the US military to detain anyone accused of supporting the Taliban or Al-Qaeda until “the end of hostilities.”


The suit was brought by activists, including former New York Times journalist Chris Hedges and outspoken academic Noam Chomsky, who said the law was vague and could be used to curtail reporters’ and other civilian citizens’ right to free speech guaranteed under the US Constitution’s First Amendment.


In her ruling, Forrest said the plaintiffs did “present evidence that First Amendment rights have already been harmed and will be harmed by the prospect of (the law) being enforced.


The court “permanently” halts enforcement of that part of the law after it issued a preliminary injunction against it in May, Forrest said, calling on Congress to reexamine the measure.
  Raw Story
I sometimes think Judge Forrest is the only thing standing between us and totalitarian government.

Clarke & Dawe

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meanwhile, at Gitmo, the Black Hole of Injustice Obama Vowed to Close...

A detainee at Guantánamo was found dead in his cell on Saturday, according to camp officials. He is the ninth person to die at the camp since it was opened more than ten years ago. As former Gitmo guard Brandon Neely pointed out Monday, more detainees have died at the camp (nine) than have been convicted of wrongdoing by its military commissions (six). This is the fourth detainee who has died at the camp since Obama's inauguration.

Although the detainee's identity has not been disclosed, a camp spokesman acknowledged that he "had not been charged and had not been designated for prosecution".


Indeed, dying in due process-free captivity now appears to be the only way for many of these detainees to leave.
  Glen Greenwald

Oh, This Is Rich

On [Obama's] watch, six whistleblowers have been charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information. That is twice as many as all past presidents combined.
Yes, NSA agents, CIA analysts, journalists, soldiers - charged, harrassed, jailed, lives destroyed. How about a banker?
US authorities have awarded former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld a $104 million reward for blowing the whistle on the Swiss bank’s tax fraud, a whistleblowers group said Tuesday.
  Raw Story
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bill Moyers

We can't elect Moyers for president, sadly, but we can benefit from his presence on air and online.

His current show looks to be enlightening as we race toward another useless election.  You can watch the whole thing here: 

Challenging Power, Changing Politics

September 7, 2012
Bill discusses the power of independent thinking with Senator Bernie Sanders and Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala.
You can also get in on an online chat with Bernie Sanders, the the longest serving Congressional independent in American history and elf-described democratic socialist, on the Moyers program tomorrow, Sept. 11 at 2:30 PM ET.
Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind:  "I think the two parties are doing a good job only at what they are designed to do: beat the other party. I think they are doing a terrible job of addressing the nation’s problems."   See Mickey Edwards’ new book, The Parties vs. The People [excerpts] for more on how this came to be.

The things that matter have been reduced in this country. There are two political parties, there are a handful of insurance companies, there are about six or seven information outlets, but if you want a bagel, there are twenty-three flavors. -- George Carlin

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Call for Trials of War Criminals

A longtime critic of the Iraq war, [Archbishop Desmond Tutu] pulled out of a South African conference on leadership last week because Blair, who was paid 2m rand (£150,000) for his time, was attending. It is understood that Tutu had agreed to speak without a fee.


Tutu has called for Tony Blair and George Bush to be hauled before the international criminal court in The Hague and delivered a damning critique of the physical and moral devastation caused by the Iraq war.

Tutu, a Nobel peace prize winner and hero of the anti-apartheid movement, accuses the former British and US leaders of lying about weapons of mass destruction and says the invasion left the world more destabilised and divided "than any other conflict in history".


In a statement, Blair strongly contested Tutu's views and said Iraq was now a more prosperous country than it had been under Saddam Hussein. "I have a great respect for Archbishop Tutu's fight against apartheid – where we were on the same side of the argument – but to repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown."
  UK Guardian
Really? Do you think he believes that? Is he delusional, or just lying some more?
"I would also point out that despite the problems, Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size, with the child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was.”
Fewer childen dying and a better economy after years of harsh sanctions are lifted. There's an accomplishment. 

A Call for Boycotting Israel

On September 10, the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers are scheduled to play a concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. The decision has caused quite a stir. More than 7,000 people have signed a petition calling on the band to cancel its performance in Israel. More than a dozen groups around the world have written letters calling on the band to cancel the show.


In 1948, my pregnant grandmother, countless relatives, and 750,000 other Palestinians were displaced from their homeland, making way for the creation of the state of Israel. My grandmother never saw her birthplace again, never picked another piece of fruit from her orchard, but spoke and dreamed of a dignified return until her final breath in 2009. Palestinians continue to languish in refugee camps; four million live under a system of increasingly brutal Israeli occupation, and 1.5 million Palestinians are relegated to second-class status inside of a state that is falsely presented as a democracy.


In 2005, Palestinian civil society, consisting of more than 170 unions, women's organisations, cultural groups, academic institutions and nearly every other facet of society, called for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the state of Israel until it complied with three basic demands based on international law: an end to occupation, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and equal rights for Palestinians living inside of the state of Israel.


Mashrou' Leila, a Lebanese band scheduled to open for the Chili Peppers in Lebanon, cancelled its lucrative slot after band members were asked to pull out of the concert in protest to the Chili Peppers' decision to play in Israel. A growing list of artists, including Bono, Santana, the late Gil Scott-Heron, Elvis Costello, Cat Power, the Klaxons, the Gorillaz, and the Pixies, have refused to cross the international picket line and have pulled out of scheduled shows. Roger Waters, frontman for Pink Floyd and human rights advocate, said the boycott call is "a perfectly legitimate, nonviolent... political tool" and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated in support of cultural boycott, "Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa... it would be wrong... to perform in Israel."


Art alone cannot break down a wall that appropriates Palestinian land and resources, it cannot uproot illegal settlements, it cannot tear down checkpoints that restrict freedom of movement, it cannot release prisoners from administrative detention, and it cannot rebuild water wells. But artists and their art can inspire millions to take conscientious action against occupation and discrimination.


Boycott From Within, a group of Israelis, has called on the Chili Peppers to cancel their show.
And if they don't, I guess the logical follow-up is to boycott the Chili Peppers.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

It's Sunday

I think the Republicans had it hard. After four years of obstructing government, they had to do something really difficult. They had to put together a convention in Tampa while God flooded Louisianna. They had to convince a bunch of white, christians that camels are skinnier and needles have bigger eyes these days. And then they had to breathe life into a $3,000 business suit.

Margaret and Helen
Cleverly put, Helen, but I don’t think they had to do any convincing. I think the target audience already believes it.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. – Matthew 19:24 King James Bible

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Still Trying to Wrap My Head Around This

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and a leading Catholic-American voice opposing abortion and President Obama’s health care reform law, inserted what some saw as an anti-abortion remark into his benediction Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention.

ABC News
Let alone what he actually said, what on earth did they expect?  Why in the world would the Democrats ask this particular man to close out the convention? The same man the Republicans used a week ago. Yes! And “a leading Catholic-American voice opposing abortion and President Obama’s health care reform law!”  This even beats that Jerusalem and Jehovah trick they pulled.

And, remembering a Charlie Pierce admonition from early in June when we learned of the cardinal's sorry ethics while in his previous post in Milwaukee:
Any story about him that does not contain the phrase "...who once supervised a program to use the money collected from parishioners to pay accused child molesters to leave the priesthood..." is unworthy of being read.
  Charlie Pierce

Maybe It Wasn't a Legitimate Purchase

Rep. Todd Akin’s effort to continue his bid for the Missouri Senate seat is now faced with a new challenge: Paying the campaign’s bills for TV ads on time.

The Akin campaign’s TV ad buy with the NBC affiliate in Columbia was canceled by the station, according to CBS radio in St. Louis. The campaign had paid the first half of the buy, but the station did not receive the other half. The TV station also said that it has confirmed that other stations have been put in the same position.

The Akin campaign told CBS radio that the payment problem was a scheduling mistake, and the next checks are on their way.

Enjoy the short respite there in Columbia, sis.

What the Hell IS the Difference?


When Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo voiced his support for marriage equality, a Maryland state lawmaker asked the team's management to censure him. But he was countered Friday by a letter from Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who had several choice words to support his fellow football player.

Maryland Democrat and minister Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote a letter August 29 to Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti, saying that he found it "inconceivable" that Ayanbadejo was supportive of gay rights and marriage equality.

"Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other," he wrote. "I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee, and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayambadejo [sic] is doing."

The Advocate
[The letter]

Well, Minnesota Vikings Chris Kluwe decided Representative Burns ought to learn of one. Choice words, indeed.

h/t Marty.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Let Missouri Redeem Herself for Todd Akin...

"We will never be better off without being better." -- Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)

Can I get an "Amen!"
video of Cleaver preaching to the Democrat National Convention

About Last Night

I will give in and listen to one convention speech. That of Bill Clinton. I never trusted Bill Clinton, and it had nothing to do with Monica Lewinsky. But I always appreciated his speech-making talent. You don't hear many really good political speeches because politicians aren't typically very good speakers. I don't like the cadence of Obama's speech, so I don't listen to him.  But, of course, he's a far, far level above George Jr. - and George Sr., for that matter - so there's that to be thankful for.  It's painful to listen to a voice that scrapes your every nerve, or a speech pattern that pricks them. (I'm thinking of the not-uncommon Valley-Girl-derived pattern that even radio reporters have these days of ending sentences on an elevated tone as though every sentence is a question.)  Barack Obama's speech seems divorced from what he's saying, and it kind of drones. Even when he's seemingly passionate - the drone just gets louder.  The pauses are awkward.  He can't help it, and it doesn't (of itself) make him a bad person.  I just can't listen to it.

Virtually all - save perhaps a number you could count on one hand, and no, I can't come up with that many - politicians spout BS, but nobody can make it sound like milk and honey from the Promised Land like Bill Clinton can.  It's not so much something you hear as something that envelops you.  My elder son, a Republican (go figger) who gets a little too near Tea Party territory for my comfort some times, says of Clinton: "Even I almost believe him when he speaks." I don't believe any of them at my age, of course, but I do enjoy a masterful performance, so I'll eventually get around to listening to Bill's speech. And I'll enjoy it.  I won't be swayed by it.  But I'll enjoy it.

In the meantime:
The second day began badly, as the convention surrendered to the tyranny of dumb people and put Jerusalem and Jehovah back in the platform.

Charlie Pierce
I wonder if Charlie might want to reword that, considering it has been reported that it was Barack Obama himself who insisted on putting those two things back in the platform.

I wouldn’t change the wording, but Charlie might.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

UPDATE:  Apparently Charlie put those words in there intentionally, and knowing that the change was at the behest of Obama, or as Charlie called him in a previous post:  the Conciliator-in-Chief.  He probably didn't mean to call the Conciliator dumb, though.  Probably.

The Shameful Reality: Where's Your Democracy Now?

Here's the video of the change in the Democrat platform  (you can skip to the end to hear the actual voice vote):

Yeah, sure. You heard for yourself.  What do you think? 

This should hurt the Democrat Party.  But it won't.  Nothing makes any difference.  We're a democracy in name only.  The Republicans should have a heyday with it though.

  ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Something You Won't Hear About on the Convention Stage

A local TV reporter in Cincinnati, Ben Swann, interviewed President Obama today and -- unlike virtually all national reporters -- decided to challenge him on how it is that he believes he has the right to order even American citizens assassinated without due process, and specifically asked him about the killing of the American teeanger Abdulrahman Awlaki in Yemen. Obama's response, needless to say, was to refuse to answer on the ground that it is all a big secret, but the imperiousness of this refusal can only be appreciated by watching the video:
  Glenn Greenwald
Go to the link, the video is embedded.
Recall that "three dozen" -- that's "three dozen" -- current and former Obama aides ran to the New York Times in May to heap praise on Obama's supposedly judicious though resolute use of drones to vanquish America's enemies. Recall, too, that he feels free openly to tell jokes about his use of drones to kill people.

But the minute he is confronted with real questions, he retreats -- just like he does when his conduct is challenged in court -- to claiming that it is all just too secret to permit any discussion of it whatsoever.

They're Calling It a Democrat National Convention

Democrats have hurriedly restored language in their party platform declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel after Republicans accused them of showing weak support for the country.


Obama's opponent in the November 6 election, Republican Mitt Romney, said omitting a reference to God suggested Democrats were out of touch with mainstream America.

Republicans also said omitting a reference to Jerusalem showed Obama was weak on Israel.


Chaos ruled on the floor of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday as delegates and convention leaders were forced to call a voice vote three times to reinstate the language in an embarrassing turnaround.


Proposing the motion, Ted Strickland, former Ohio governor, said "faith and belief in God is central to the American story" and "President Obama recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and our party's platform should as well".

But when a voice vote was called, the "nays" appeared to match the "ayes".

"I -- I -- I guess, I'll do that one more time," Villaraigosa said.

Despite the second attempt leading to a similar response, he declared: "In the opinion of that chair, two-thirds have voted in the affirmative. The motion is adopted, and the platform has been amended."
They were forced to put things in their platform because the Republicans were unhappy with it? For the love of Pete. Even the Democrat convention is controlled by the Republicans.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Update: The other shoe – they were “ordered” to do it.
US President Barack Obama ordered Democrats Wednesday to reinsert references to God and Jerusalem in their party platform, quickly moving to snuff out a damaging political row.


A campaign official told AFP that the president, who has been hammered by Republicans who see him as too tough on Israel, personally intervened to have language on Jerusalem, a feature of past party platforms, restored.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Obama had also questioned why the party ever dispensed with language in the 2008 platform referring to America’s “God-given” potential.
  Raw Story
Isn't that interesting that al Jazeera (who was hacked by a Syrian agent and offline yesterday) left that part out of their report? (Raw Story's report comes from an Agence France-Presse article.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The First Lady Asks:

"This election is about how we want our democracy to function for decades to come," she explained. "We need to step back and ask ourselves, do we want to give a few individuals a far bigger say in our democracy than anyone else?"

"No!" came a roar from the audience.

Charlie Pierce
We want to give one individual more of  that. Re-elect Barack Obama!

Occupy Charlotte & Chicago Obama Campaign Headquarters

[More] than 2,500 people from throughout the South and across the U.S. filled the streets of Charlotte on Sun., Sept. 2 for the March on Wall Street South. The demonstration confronted the banks and corporations headquartered in Charlotte that are wreaking havoc on communities throughout the country, and raised a people’s agenda for jobs and justice as the Democratic National Convention convenes here.


Beginning today, Occupy Chicago will join with activists around Chicago and take a stand. We will highlight the contradictions between President Obama's promise of “hope and change” and his actual policy decisions during a four day occupation of his campaign headquarters.

Occupy Wall Street

The Unauthorized Account of Bin Laden's Murder

Ooops. A Navy SEAL that was there has just published a book. Not surprisingly, he tells a different tale than the official account. In fact, according to the SEAL, they shot an unarmed bin Laden in the head as he looked out of a bedroom door, without knowing in fact whether it was bin Laden. The book denegrates the Commander in Chief (who they all knew would take the credit) but praises the decision to take out bin Laden.

It will be interesting to see the contrast between the SEAL's account and the propaganda movie coming out in January which the White House collaborated on.

By the way, also not surprisingly since it was unauthorized and tells a conflicting story from the official one, the Pentagon is claiming the book reveals national security secrets, so I hope the SEAL has already moved out of the country. I'm not getting a picture of a guy that's all that smart, however, from the excerpts at Huffington Post.

...and hey, do what you will anyway.

That Was Quick

DNCC announces it’s moving Thursday night’s convention finale – including President Obama’s acceptance speech – from the outdoors Bank of America stadium to the indoors arena where the rest of the convention has been held, due to the forecast for thunderstorms.


And just as I stepped out of my car at work this morning, the last line I heard on NPR was that the Dem convention spokespersons (or maybe it was the President's aides?) were saying the outdoor venue was going forward, because, by golly, if the Panthers could play football in the rain, the president could speak in the rain! He’s just THAT swell (or maybe that rugged?).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter

The "real" Rosie - the woman who sat for the painting (which was sold for $4.96 million at a Sotheby's auction in 2002) was Mary Doyle Keefe.  But she didn't look quite like the painting.  Read all about it in this article.  It's riveting.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Invisible Barack Obama

A little long (10 minutes), but  good Jon Stewart stuff.

Watch the Mediaite video at Raw Story or Mediaite.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Pathology Defined

The mark of a pathological liar is that he'll lie about anything. Unimportant things. Things where the truth would serve him better.
[GOP VP pick Paul] Ryan told Hugh Hewitt that he ran a sub 3:00 marathon -- "under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something," he said.

Funny thing is that Runner's World can't find any record of Ryan's super-fast marathon running.
"Ryan's name does not show up in the 1991 race results provided by Grandma's. Runner's World checked 11 years of results for Grandma's Marathon, from 1988 through 1998, and found a finisher in the 1990 race by the name of Paul D. Ryan, 20, of Minneapolis. .

Ryan's middle name is Davis, and he was 20 in 1990. The finishing time listed was 4 hours, 1 minute and 25 seconds."

  Dependable Renegade
...but hey, do what you will anyway.