Friday, July 31, 2009

"Lethal Warriors" Bring The War Home

Via Democracy Now (and my lil sis, who lives nearby the Springs, Ft. Carson, and all the concentrated military madness of the surroundings--the Air Force Academy, the Fort, the airbases, etc--under the dome of heaven at the foot of Pike's Peak, and reads the Gazette.)
A startling two-part series published in the Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs titled “Casualties of War” examines a part of war seldom discussed by the media or government officials: the difficulty of returning to civilian life after being trained to be a killer. The story focuses on a single battalion based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment. Soldiers from the brigade have have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, drunk driving, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides. The Army unit’s murder rate is 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs. We speak with the reporter who broke the story and get the Army’s response.
Fort Carson is the site of some of the most egregious examples of the Army, especially, either ignoring or punishing soldiers' efforts to get help for PTSD and other cambat-related psychopathologies which the military is only too glad to liberate in its trained killers, but is then later far too slow to ameliorate or dissolve when the troops come "home." (NPR's only real reporter, Daniel Zwerdling (the rest being all-to-willing tools of the USer propaganda apparat), has reported on the situation in terms of the way the Army has overlooked the problem since 2006.)

Troopers of the 2nd/12th returned from the front to Fort Carson have been responsible for dozens of murders, attacks, rapes, beatings, and other acts of unrestrained violence in the community, often victimizing fellow soldiers along with their families. The murder rate among troopers in the unit--the "Lethal Warriors"--is 114 times greater than that of the surrounding community. A precis:
The story focuses on a single battalion based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, the 2nd Batallion, 12th Infantry Regiment. The battalion’s nickname is the “Lethal Warriors.” In Iraq, the unit fought in some of the war’s bloodiest battles, in Ramadi on its first tour, downtown Baghdad on its second. In May, the unit deployed again, this time to Afghanistan.

For some of the unit’s soldiers, the killing didn’t end when they returned home. The Gazette reports that since 2006 ten infantry soldiers have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter. Others have committed other violent crimes. Some of the veterans have committed suicide. In a one-year period, from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for members of the Army unit was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

In late 2006, twenty-one-year-old Anthony Marquez killed a small-time drug dealer by shooting him repeatedly with a stun gun and then shot him in the heart.

In August of 2007, twenty-four-year-old Louis Bressler robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December of 2007, three soldiers from the unit—Louis Bressler, Bruce Bastien and Kenneth Eastridge—left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a Colorado Springs street. Two months earlier, the same group intentionally drove into a woman walking to work. One of the soldiers then repeatedly stabbed her.

In May and June of 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla and Jomar Falu-Vives drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September of 2008, police say John Needham beat a former girlfriend to death.

Josh Butler was sent to prison for beating his pregnant wife. Months later, his child was born with severe birth defects and died. Butler blames himself, in part, for the child’s death.

While Fort Carson has instituted a number of new policies and programs to help returning soldiers adjust to civilian life, the killing has continued. In May, Thomas Woolly was charged with manslaughter after shooting a nineteen-year-old woman. Two weeks later, another member of the unit committed suicide in California.
DN doesn't provide an embed link, but there's video at the DN site.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Meta-Hullabaloo On Race and the USer Social Fabric

Digby wrote, in analyzing an exchange between Joan Walsh and that straw-haired pinhead Chris Mathews, in which Walsh schooled Mathews on White Murkin racial "real-Politik,"
But one of the fundamental reasons America is so resistant to programs that provide for the common good is that there is a long tradition of rejecting any proposal that taxes white people to pay for programs that benefit non-Whites."
Here's the context and the Vid: "Joan Walsh tried to give Chris Matthews a history lesson, but he took it as Marxist propaganda. Yes, he did.
Then from the hustings came the perpelxed cries of offended White privilege:
Way to go Digby! Another one of your trademark white people suck and are all racist barbs! You are averaging several a week these days, congrats. I guess all of those poor whites in Appalachia would benefit from some of those programs, but thats a small factoid you can ignore.

Maybe us "racists" are opposed to handing out huge sums of $$$ because of the concept on which this country was founded, ya know, hard work and pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps, etc. Remember the term "self made man"? Probably not. Maybe it is a bit sickening to see people who don't do that dine from the public trough.

But again, I think you score points with your buddies when you bring racism into the picture, so do what you do best.
Jimmy Dean | 07.30.09 - 5:04 pm
This elicited a suitably mocking, irreverent reply from the commentariat:
Poor Jimmy Dean, can't let go of that white inferiority. Pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps? You mean like the slaveowners and their descendants, now the banksters and fraudsters of Wall St.? It took George W. Bush to destroy the myth of white superiority, and you've been unmasked, or unsheeted, as your case may well be.
Paladin | 07.30.09 - 5:11 pm
Then the inevitable rejoinder, the last defense:
Uh, Paladin I never owned slaves. My family came to this country at the end of the civil war, so don't blame me.

But you are still full of shit.
Jimmy Dean | 07.30.09 - 5:15 pm
How many times have I heard that codswallop from White people straining to escape the taint of our Systematic USer racism and their participation in it. And how weary I grew for over a dozen years endeavoring to show privileged white students that they were mostly just lucky winners of the sperm lottery. Good luck widdat, I know...whatever. In any case, I replied:
Jimmuh Dane, every person in this country who claims to be "whaht" has profited in some way, or benefited, or been helped along in some respect, at the expense of a person of color because of the legacy of slavery, which I suspect you have yourself done little to ameliorate, nest paww?

Your family mightn't have owned slaves, but somewhere along the line one of 'em got in a union that didn't take blacks, or joined a chjurch where blacks were not allowed to worship, or got into a school that was denied to blacks.
Woody | Homepage | 07.30.09 - 5:29 pm
There is no such thang as a "self-made man." Raising oneself by pulling on one's own boot-straps is both a physical and an emotional impossibility.

The tenor of the health care debate highlights the classical 'definition' of racism: The use of political power by the majority to deny shared, common goods--like health--to despised, presumptively inferior minorities.

And that this opposition to any benefit going to the despised "other" is so fierce demonstrates how deep is the animus held by whites--especially but not certainly exclusively, rural and poor whites-- against aid to folks whom they deem "undeserving" out of a racist sense of entitlement, that they oppose it even though they would themselves benefit enormously from the 'liberalization' of benefits.

But if it helps the Negroes, then Ma n' Pa Kettle, thar agin it...

The scariest thing for a lot of White people in this country is to be deprived of their illusions that they actually deserved the advantages and privileges they still enjoy in virtually unrestricted and unregulated percentages, that they achieved whatever they did because they had unfair advantages. They hate to think they got where they are because the rules were bent for them.

It's the obverse of the medal from their criticism of Affirmative Action.

Fucknozzle Boston Pig Says Henry Louis Gates Is A "Banana-Eating Jungle-Monkey"

No, really.

That was an opinion expressed by a (suspended, and soon to be ex-) Boston cop and alleged former English teacher named Justin Barrett. Barrett exercised his right to free speech by publishing a wide-distribution e-mail in which Barrett declared that if he had "been the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [oleoresin capsicum, or pepper spray] deserving of his belligerent noncompliance."

USer cops suffer from institutional AIV Syndrome: Arrogance, Ignorance, and Violence. When in doubt, fuck the perp, so he remembers to be polite to cops in future.
Officer Justin Barrett, 36, who is assigned to heavily minority District B-3 in Mattapan, was placed on paid administrative leave pending a termination hearing. When a police supervisor confronted Barrett about the e-mail - in which Gates is called a “banana-eating jungle monkey” - he admitted to being the author, officials said.

Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis moved to fire Barrett after the two-year veteran, who is also a National Guardsman, allegedly dispatched the hateful e-mail to The Boston Globe and forwarded it to colleagues at the Guard.

“If I was the officer (Gates) verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC (pepper spray) deserving of his belligerent noncompliance,” the e-mail reads.

The embarrassing episode comes as a national race furor was supposed to be quelled by Obama’s peacemaking White House suds summit tonight, when Gates, 58, meets over beers with Sgt. James Crowley, 42, the Cambridge cop who arrested him July 16.

Barrett could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Peter Marano, said on WTKK-FM that his client has a First Amendment right to express himself but regrets his “poor choice of words.”

The 703-word rant raises questions about how Barrett went undetected by a rigorous psychological screening required of Boston police recruits. Davis was trying furiously to reach Gates last night, an official said, and plans to hold a press conference today.

Gates declined to comment through his lawyer, fellow Harvard professor Charles Ogletree, who said his own reaction was one of shock. “I hope that it does not reflect on all police officers in Boston and in Cambridge, because it should not,” Ogletree said.

A Boston police official said the Guard placed Barrett on leave Saturday and then made the BPD aware of the e-mail, officials said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In A Truly "Free" Country, Citizens Should Be Able Tell Cops To Go Fuck Themselves

Or anything else, for that matter, especially when, relying on the "respect" that the "gun" inspires, the moronic, fascistic pigs "go off" and act like the dickheads their training -- to say NOTHING of the full might of the corpoRat PR/entertainment machine (how many "LawnOrder" shows can that fascist fuck Dick Wolf, produce?) -- struggles so bravely to conceal.

The totalitarian/authoritarian state REQUIRES that kind of blindly, bovinely obedient deference to its authority (i.e., GUN) bearers. Summarizing the lessons that the Bosses and Owners want us to take from the gates affair, according to Eric Etheridge, is this:
It doesn’t matter if you are right, wrong, at home or on the street, or if you are white, black, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim or whatever. When an armed law enforcement officer tells you to cease and desist, the wise person (a) ceases and (b) desists.

The End.

Radley Balko thinks otherwise. Writing at Reason, he says, “If there’s a teachable moment to extract from Gates’ arrest, it’s that arrest powers should be limited to actual crimes. Instead, the emerging lesson seems to be that you should capitulate to police, all the time, right or wrong. That’s unfortunate, because there are plenty of instances where you shouldn’t.”
But the big gun in this dispute, brought to the surface by the "tumultuousness" of Harvard (black) scholar Henry Louis Gates's unreasonable and probably illegal rousting from his Harvard Square home, is on the bench of the 9th Circuit. Via Ed Brayton, poaching on Andrew Sullivan, who unearthed the opinion of noted conservative (but also First Amendment absolutist) jurist Alex Kozinski on such matters. Kozinski concluded, more than a decade ago, that
...basically ...“mouthing off to police is protected speech.

The case, Duran v. City of Douglas Arizona, began when “Plaintiff Ralph Duran directed a series of expletives and an obscene hand gesture at defendant Gilbert Aguilar, a police officer. Officer Aguilar responded by detaining and arresting Duran, who, along with his wife, now brings this lawsuit for injuries he suffered during the incident.”

In his ruling, Kozinski wrote:
Thus, while police, no less than anyone else, may resent having obscene words and gestures directed at them, they may not exercise the awesome power at their disposal to punish individuals for conduct that is not merely lawful, but protected by the First Amendment. . . . Inarticulate and crude as Duran’s conduct may have been, it represented an expression of disapproval toward a police officer with whom he had just had a run-in. As such, it fell squarely within the protective umbrella of the First Amendment and any action to punish or deter such speech–such as stopping or hassling the speaker–is categorically prohibited by the Constitution.
According to Sullivan, “The difference between real conservatism and the police-state authoritarianism now cherished by Cheney Republicans has rarely been better explained. You live in a free country. The police are your employees. You pay their salary.”
Cops 'protect & serve' their communities mostly by regulating the ability of members of despised minorities to remain, live, and to try to survive in those communities. Cops do to the folks they're assigned to regulate -- non-whites, mainly, still, and the poor, homeless, etc. whom their employers, the good burghers, wish to see be kept moving -- no more or less than what they have learned their bosses will stand for.

They learn who they can roust with impunity, who they can abuse for fun, whose asses they can kick for 'motivation,' as quickly and as certainly as they learn the locations of the donut shops that give cops freebies.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Poor Heart Bleeds For The 'One Percenters'

The whining, the moaning, the gnashing of teeth, the fury of the "one Percenters" this past week, when "thePrez" announced his intention to add a surtax on the wealthiest citizens was epic. You'd think it was the unfairest thing since slavery.

But consider: The top 5 percent own more than half of all wealth.

In 1998, they owned 59 percent of all wealth. Or to put it another way, the top 5 percent had more wealth than the remaining 95 percent of the population, collectively. :

THE RICHEST 1 (ONE) PERCENT of Americans own more wealth than
1) ALL of the wealth of ALL of the MIDDLE class
2) ALL of the wealth of ALL of the LOWER class
3) ALL of the wealth of the bottom HALF of the UPPER class

Via multinationalmonitor:
The top 20 percent owns over 80 percent of all wealth. In 1998, it owned 83 percent of all wealth.

This is a very concentrated distribution.

The bottom 20 percent basically have zero wealth. They either have no assets, or their debt equals or exceeds their assets. The bottom 20 percent has typically accumulated no savings.

A household in the middle — the median household — has wealth of about $62,000. $62,000 is not insignificant, but if you consider that the top 1 percent of households’ average wealth is $12.5 million, you can see what a difference there is in the distribution.

Things are even more concentrated if you exclude owner-occupied housing. It is nice to own a house and it provides all kinds of benefits, but it is not very liquid. You can’t really dispose of it, because you need some place to live.

The top 1 percent of families hold half of all non-home wealth.

The middle class’s major assets are their home, liquid assets like checking and savings accounts, CDs and money market funds, and pension accounts. For the average family, these assets make up 84 percent of their total wealth.

The richest 10 percent of families own about 85 percent of all outstanding stocks. They own about 85 percent of all financial securities, 90 percent of all business assets. These financial assets and business equity are even more concentrated than total wealth.
From each according to ability, to each according to need.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama DoJ Retaliates Against Bushevik Whistleblower

Here's smome MORE fucking change we can believe in.

Read Harper's ubiquitous Scott Horton on the way that the fucking goddam all-about-change Obama DoJ reacted when presented with evidence from a Bushevik Asst. US Atty that Don Siegelman, former Alabama Governor, was railroaded into prison by the Rove/Beto G DoJ.

What the fuck? Read the whole thing!
Did DOJ Retaliate Against Siegelman Whistleblower?

By Scott Horton

In a nine-page June 1, 2009 letter to her boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, Tamarah Grimes, a member of the Justice Department team that prosecuted former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, itemized an astonishing list of acts of misconduct by her colleagues as they developed what they called “the Big Case.”

Two key witnesses were cajoled, coached, and pressured to change their testimony to better support the charges. This specifically included the key evidence given by one witness on which Siegelman was convicted. But, as Grimes notes, the witness in fact had no recollection of the events–he was pressured to recount them in a way that suited the prosecutors.

Documents were purloined from a Waste Management site.

Members of the prosecution team communicated directly with a pro-prosecution juror while the case was pending and afterwards.

Every aspect of the case was overseen by U.S. Attorney Canary. She had nominally recused herself from the case because her husband, a friend of Karl Rove and the most prominent G.O.P. elections advisor in Alabama, was advising a campaign against Siegelman for which the prosecution provided essential grist.

Eight days after submitting these meticulously documented complaints, many of which echo concerns stated by others in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Montgomery, Grimes received a reply of sorts. She was fired. Grimes notes in a press release that she was informed of her dismissal in a letter from Terry Derden of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys.

Derden formally denies that Grimes’s dismissal is related to her status as a whistleblower. On the other hand, his denial is pretty thin gruel. According to the Grimes press release, the decision to fire “arose from a management decision made [in an] after-hours meeting in the lobby bar at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama.” That meeting occurred on November 1, 2007, and it was an all-in-the-family affair, involving U.S. Attorney Leura Canary and her then first deputy Patricia Watson. Watson is married to Leura Canary’s first cousin, and both Canary and Watson were the direct targets of Grimes’s whistleblower complaints. The appearance of an act of retaliation could not be stronger.

According to the Justice Department, Grimes was terminated because she presented “an unreasonable risk to operational security.” The Justice Department apparently reached that conclusion because of her denunciation of the “victory at all costs” tactics adopted by the Public Integrity Section, and her objection to juror tampering, witness cajoling, and similar criminal capers also provided justification for termination of her security clearance. The Justice Department’s conduct looks increasingly like a Sicilian mob group: you commit the crimes the bosses order and you keep quiet about it, or the consequences will be fearsome.

The No Fear Act purports to shield whistleblowers from acts of retaliation against employees who disclose misconduct. However, the clever consigliere of the Bush Justice Department, who amazingly continue to control all aspects of the case involving Siegelman five months into a new Democratic administration (including Leura Canary, who is still on the job in Montgomery), are not about to be stopped by legislation that protects whistleblowers. They detected the chink in the armor: the decision to terminate security clearance is not reviewable in a whistleblower setting. And once security clearance is lifted, it becomes very easy to fire the person involved.

In response to an inquiry about the Grimes termination, Justice Department spokesman Tracy Schmaler states, “The Department takes seriously its obligation under the whistleblower law and did not violate it with regards to the termination of this employee. For privacy reasons, it would be inappropriate to comment any further on this personnel matter at this time.”

I provide more background on Tamarah Grimes’s disclosures of misconduct in the Siegelman prosecution in One of the Siegelman Prosecution Team Comes in From the Cold and What the Justice Department is Hiding.
Ipso facto. Q.E.D.

Except just this: What the fuck are ANY goddam motherfucking facist, dickheaded, shit-sniffing, prostate-licking Busheviks doing in the DoJ six whole months after the seating of a new AG? This is particularly perplexing because, by definition, any of the current US Attys who were Bushevik appointees HAD to have survived the 2005 purge, wherein US Attys deemed not eager enough to perpetuate the eternal GOP majority were fired.

The Siegelman case is an example of what they had to do to keep their fucking jobs.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

B A C O N !: How the Food Industry Has Made It a Weapon of Mass Destruction

Humans are programmed biologically to gorge on three 'tastes': Sweet, fat, and salty. Food processors know this and package their 'goods' accordingly.

"The confluence of factory farming, the boom in fast food and manipulation of consumer taste created processed foods that can hook us like drugs."
By Arun Gupta, AlterNet. Posted July 23, 2009.
Among my fondest childhood memories is savoring a strip of perfectly cooked bacon that had just been dragged through a puddle of maple syrup. It was an illicit pleasure; varnishing the fatty, salty, smoky bacon with sweet arboreal sap felt taboo. How could such simple ingredients produce such riotous flavors?

That was then. Today, you don't need to tax yourself applying syrup to bacon -- McDonald's does it for you with the McGriddle. It conveniently takes an egg, American cheese and pork and nestles it between pancakelike biscuits suffused with genuine fake-maple-syrup flavor.

The McGriddle is just one moment in an era of extreme food combinations -- a moment in which bacon plays a starring role, from high cuisine to low.

There is: bacon ice cream; bacon-infused vodka; deep-fried bacon; chocolate-dipped bacon; bacon-wrapped hot dogs filled with cheese (which are fried, then battered and fried again); brioche bread pudding smothered in bacon sauce; hard-boiled eggs coated in mayonnaise encased in bacon -- called, appropriately, the "heart attack snack"; bacon salt; bacon doughnuts, cupcakes and cookies; bacon mints; "baconnaise," which Jon Stewart described as "for people who want to get heart disease but [are] too lazy to actually make bacon"; Wendy's "Baconnator" -- six strips of bacon mounded atop a half-pound cheeseburger -- which sold 25 million in its first eight weeks; and the outlandish bacon explosion -- a barbecued meat brick composed of 2 pounds of bacon wrapped around 2 pounds of sausage.

It's easy to dismiss this gonzo gastronomy as typical American excess best followed with a Lipitor chaser. Behind the proliferation of bacon offerings, however, is a confluence of government policy, factory farming, the boom in fast food and manipulation of consumer taste that has turned bacon into a weapon of mass destruction.

While bacon's harmful effects were once limited to individual consumers, its production in vast porcine cities has become an environmental disaster. The system of industrialized hog (and beef and poultry) farming that has developed over the last 40 years turns out to be ideal for breeding novel strains of deadly pathogens, such as the current pandemic of swine flu. If a new killer virus appears, like the Spanish flu that killed tens of millions after World War I, factory farms will have played a central role in its genesis.

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) churn out cheap, but flavorless, meat. However, for the CAFOs to exist there must be demand for the product. That's where the industrial food sector comes in. Chains like McDonald's, Chili's, Taco Bell, Applebee's and Pizza Hut approach the tasteless, limp factory beef, pork and chicken as a blank canvas with which to create highly enticing, even addictive, foods by pumping it full of fat, salt, sugar and chemical flavorings.

The chains lard on bacon in particular as a high-profit method of adding an item that has a "high flavor profile," a "one-of-a-kind product that has no taste substitute." According to David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating, a standard joke in the restaurant chain industry goes, "When in doubt, throw cheese and bacon on it."

More than that, notes Kessler, the food industry uses science and marketing to try to make its products addictive. By manipulating what he calls the "three points of the compass" -- fat, sugar and salt -- the food industry creates highly processed foods that can hook us like drugs. In various countries and regions, the levels of fat, sugar and salt are even calibrated to different "bliss points" to maximize the consumers' pleasure.

Kessler talks to one scientist who studied lab mice that were willing to work nearly as hard to get doses of Ensure, a drink high in fat and sugar, as they were to get hits of cocaine. One food company executive calls his industry "the manipulator of the consumers' minds and desires."

In essence, the food industry has hit on a magic formula: Companies conjure up endless variations on the McGriddle that itself is the mass-produced version of the maple-syrup-soaked bacon strip from our childhoods.

This points to why our food system is so entrenched and why noble experiments, from food co-ops and community-supported agriculture to organic food and the locavore movement, are fleas on the industrial food elephant.

The crisis of factory farming has thus become its own solution. We know our food system is killing the planet, killing us with heart disease, diabetes and cancer and threatens to incubate a deadly global pandemic, but how can we resist when it tastes oh so good?
The piece goes on another 4 pages, and the news doesn't get any better. Commercial interests are sacrificing citizens' health for cheap, easy, and harmful profits.


Where have I heard THAT before? I am sure nobody could EVER have anticipated such an outcome.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Israelis Continue Ethnic Cleansing, Destroy "Hundreds" of Arab Olive Trees

The vandals were Jewish "settlers," protesting Israeli officials closing a settler shanty. Riding horses, wielding torches, and hurling stones (and resembling nothing so much as the Janjuwid of Darfur), the Jews raided Arab villages, and torched upwards of nearly 1500 olive trees belonging to Arabs in the vicinity of illegal settlements. I heard the news of it on Democracy Now.

Settlers are the thin edge of the wedge of Israeli ethnic cleansing tactics in Palestine:
Israeli settlers burn olive groves in ‘price tag’ retaliation attack

Israeli settlers on horseback set fire to fields of olive trees and stoned Palestinian cars in the West Bank yesterday, apparently in response to the Israeli army’s removal of an illegal outpost in the area.

At least 1,500 Palestinian-owned trees were destroyed and two Palestinians were injured in the attack, near the city of Nablus, by about 30 settlers, security officials said. Farmers fought fires late into the afternoon, as fears grew that the flames would spread across the dry summer fields.

It was the most recent example of the “price tag” policy, in which settlers seek revenge by attacking Palestinians for every outpost that is demolished. “The goal is to create a price for each evacuation, causing Israeli authorities to think twice about carrying them out,” the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said.

A settler activist, Itamar Ben-Gvir, put it more directly: “We will not be suckers for the Israeli Government. We will not sit idly by and allow them to remove our homes,” he said.

Palestinians in Nablus said the attackers came from the nearby area of Yitzhar, considered to be one of the most hardline of Israel’s West Bank settlements.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, has pledged to dismantle some of Israel’s illegal outposts as a goodwill gesture — but settler leaders have sworn to rebuild two for every one that is taken down.

The settlements, built on land earmarked for a future Palestinian state, have emerged as a key sticking point in efforts between Israel and the international community to forge a peace deal. While the US and Britain have pushed Israel to agree to a complete settlement freeze and the dismantling of dozens of outposts, the Jewish state has sought a compromise that would mean only a partial freeze, and the completion of 2,500 homes already in the late stages of construction.

The US envoy George Mitchell will visit the area this week but his impending arrival has sparked a row over how much Mr Netanyahu will be willing to concede.

“We cannot accept the fact that Jews wouldn’t be entitled to live and buy anywhere in Jerusalem,” said Mr Netanyahu, in response to a request by Washington that he stop a planned settler housing project at the Shepherd’s Hotel in east Jerusalem.

He called Israel’s sovereignty over the entire city “indisputable”. Israelis and Palestinians view Jerusalem as their capital and east Jerusalem holds several sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The case of the Shepherd’s Hotel, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of the city, has been seen as a typical example of Jewish expansion in a predominantly Arab neighbourhood. The American millionaire Irving Moskowitz, who purchased the building in 1985, plans to demolish it and build apartments in its place. The hotel sits amid several diplomatic missions, including the British consulate.

The US and Britain have asked Israel to stop the building project but aides close to Mr Netanyahu said the issue was not up for discussion.
For every settler the IDF disturbs, there will surely be a dozen Arab victims of Jewish/settler violence.

The whole world seems to ignore the fact that Israel has territorial ambitions. "Real-politik" declares that Israel cannot tolerate an antagonistic, independent state within its borders. Ethnic cleansing is a practical, albeit probably criminal, and certainly immoral, way to assure that doesn't happen.

It needs to be repeated: This is NOT a practice unique to Israelis/Jews in Palestine. The Serbs, and the Croats, both perfected this technique in recent memory.

The previous report was published by "TheTimesOnline." Upon searching the string "Israeli settlers burn olive trees," I found not one single, solitary SCUM outlet reporting the story. Are you surprised?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jon Stewart "Pwns" Brian Williams

The unctuous, odious, smarmy, repellant Brian Williams tells Jon Stewart how much he looked up to Walter Cronkite - "He was a man I wanted to be" -

and Stewart responds: "How does it feel, to fall so short?"

This is why I love TDSWJS:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Brian Williams
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Cow-Oui-Yacht Em-Tor, Motherfucker!"

The rapacity and the capacity for the parasites in culture to exploit and cheat the most vulnerable citizens will always exceed both the ability of the authorities to sanction such behavior, and their willingness to do so. On Crooks&Liars, d-day (moonlighting from Digby's place) put up the following indictment of the pervasive culture of predation in markets.
I don't think I'm being hyperbolic by saying that the average subprime mortgage broker should probably be in prison by now. They took loans that their customers had no possibility of paying back, often by forcing them into exotic arrangements where their payments would shoot up by double after a reset. They got bonuses for putting people into a higher interest rate than what the borrowers could qualify for. Now lots of those loans have gone sour, but the broker's company has already passed on that risk in the form of mortgage-backed securities. Indeed, these same lenders who preyed upon homeowners by getting them into residences they couldn't afford are now ripping them off again by setting up loan modification companies.
Yet the dangers assailing Mr. Soussana’s clients have yielded fresh business for him: Late last year, he and his team — ensconced in the same office where they used to broker mortgages — began working for a loan modification company. For fees reaching $3,495, with most of the money collected upfront, they promised to negotiate with lenders to lower payments on the now-delinquent mortgages they and their counterparts had sprinkled liberally across Southern California.

“We just changed the script and changed the product we were selling,” said Mr. Soussana, who ran the Los Angeles sales office of Federal Loan Modification Law Center. The new script: You got a raw deal, and “Now, we’re able to help you out because we understand your lender.” [...]

FedMod is but one example of how many of the same people who dispensed risky mortgages during the real estate bubble have reconstituted themselves into a new industry focused on selling loan modifications.

Despite making promises of relief to homeowners desperate to keep their homes, FedMod and other profit making loan modification firms often fail to deliver, according to a New York Times investigation based on interviews with scores of former employees and customers, more than 650 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, and documents filed by the Federal Trade Commission in a lawsuit against the company. The suit, filed in California federal court, asserts that FedMod frequently exaggerated its rates of success, advised clients to stop making their mortgage payments, did little or nothing to modify loans and failed to promptly refund fees. The suit seeks an end to FedMod’s practices, and compensation for customers.

“Our job was to get the money in and then we’re done,” said Paul Pejman, a former sales agent who worked out of FedMod’s two-story headquarters in Irvine, Calif. He recounted his experience, he said, because “I really feel bad.”

Before state regulators and the Feds figured out this was going on, hundreds of loan modification companies took probably billions from distressed homeowners and provided virtually nothing in return. They saw opportunity in crisis - and they also CREATED much of the crisis by selling the homes to people who couldn't afford them in the first place.

Special place in hell reserved for them...
Fuck a special place in hell. If you tried to fleece these smart guys the way they delight in fleecing other folks, they'd send muscle after you, to make jelly of your knuckles.

You DO know that, right?

These folks are not amenable to quiet conversion, or to relinquishing good business, or to merely ceasing what they do. This'd be a good place for law, except that there's no laws prohibiting what they do, and lots of laws chartering them.

Any suggestions for stemming their filthy trade?

A Sick, Sick Country: No Nation Is Worth Much Of A Shit

...which preserves and enlarges the wealth of its elites at the expense of the health of its people, the glib exceptionalist propaganda, the democratic mythologies, and the pretty pretenses of liberty notwithstanding.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sometimes, All You Can Say Is "Fucking A!"

This would be high in the category of "things you just don't see every day, and can be glad of it."

Blog-pal, theMom, had this up.

It made me gasp. Real time. Apparently, the FAA made a special grant of permission to let the Navy F/A-18F "SuperHornet" make a low-level pylon pass to open the Detroit River Air Races last week. I was in the USAF for four years, and though it wasn't my field, I hung around the zoomies and the flight-line as much as I could. The noise that one of these makes, at the range where the perspective/dof of the foto makes sense, would knock you down.

Is Inflicting "Collateral Damage" Equivalent To "Terrorism?

Short Answer: Yes.

Longer: Bernard Chazelle's most recent excursus at A Tiny Revolution.
What do I think? I believe that terrorism is morally worse than collateral damage because of its unique alignment of causality and intentionality. However, the distinction is a philosophical subtlety. It is morally razor-thin. Kantian ethics would not recognize it. Neither would consequentialism (America's dominant moral doctrine). In secular philosophy, one could draw a distinction within the context of what's called "virtue ethics" but name anyone bloviating about terrorism who does that. Perhaps a theological argument could be made. But, by and large, I believe, the distinction is mostly a matter of bad faith. As is most of public discourse on foreign policy.
Frankly, I think Bernard's argument is too fine. "Terrorism," even according to the least critical definition of the subject, amounts inevitably to the exertion of violence against innocent civilians for the purpose of achieving political ends by means of intimidation.

A car-bomb in Bagdhad, or a suicide bomber aboard a bus in Tel Aviv, or a drone attack in the Swat Valley are no different in that regard.

(P.S.: The patch pictured above is real, assigned to participant "pilots" who maneuver un-maned drone bombers over Afghanistan and Pakistan (and wheresoever else we may only guess), attacking alleged "Taliban" strongholds and randomly killing civilians along with whatsoever "terrorists" they may also eradicate) for the purpose of effecting political change. A "razor-thin" distinction, indeed.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Employer-sponsored Health Care You Can Believe In

DOTOF™: Digby/Hullaballoo

This is offered not in criticism of the generosity of the employer, but rather to highlight the plight of the valued employee whose coverage is inadequate.

Michael Jackson Is Still Dead

The tears and imploring of his legions of 'fans' notwithstanding. I am guessing he, like all of us when we cross that divide, will remain that way.


I don't care. I give a fuck. He was a self-destructive, self-obsessed, pedophiliac has-been, drug-addict, and complete wack-job: A grotesque self-parody of self-parody.

Jackson's recordings netted BILLIONS! How much of it--what percentage--did he dedicate to 'charity?' One of his charities brought small, ill children to Neverland. Recruiting? He died owing a pharmacist more tha $100,000 for TWO MONTHS worth of prescription pain abaters.

Another thing:

On the day after our "national holiday," I for one, don’t feel “better” this year than last, even with “the Prez” newly installed in power. It seems to me, from the evidence, that the country traded a bumbling, inarticulate, smirking, spoiled fleck of patrician privilege for a smooth, literate, toothy corporate hack; took off the shit-encrusted cowboy boots and slipped into the blood-soaked alligator loafers.

Change? My ass…

Example: The most likely “health care reform” bill to come out of Congress will be such a piece of shit that “liberals” and “progressives” will prefer to eat rat poison and expire than vote for it. But “thePrez” will sign it. At this point, he’d sign onto involuntary organ harvesting if it came to his desk, and claim it was a “bold step” for financing insurance for all.

And don’t anybody give me any shit about the “perfect” being the “enemy” of the “good.”

If the best the “good” an give us is a reeking pile of corporate privilege, and more private profit from public suffering, then it needs all the fucking enemies it can get…Count me IN!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Deja Vu

I am sure I read this headline 40 years ago.

"US Marines push deeper into southern Afghan towns"

It was on YahooNews. And apart from the fact that it was a somewhat different, wretched, war-torn corner of South Asia, and the country begins today with an A, not a V, the sentiment is exactly the same: Global USer military intervention in protection of commercial interests.
NAWA, Afghanistan — U.S. Marines pushed deeper into Taliban areas of southern Afghanistan on Friday, seeking to cut insurgent supply lines and win over local elders on the second day of the biggest U.S. military operation here since the American-led invasion of 2001.

On the other side of the border, U.S. missiles struck a Pakistani Taliban militant training center and communications center, killing 17 people and wounding nearly 30, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

Both U.S. operations were aimed at what President Barack Obama considers as the biggest dangers in the region: a resurgent Taliban-led insurgency allied with al-Qaida that threatens both nuclear-armed Pakistan and the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan.

The 4,000-strong U.S. force met little resistance Friday as troops fanned out into villages in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, although one Marine was killed and several others were wounded the day before, U.S. officials said.

Despite minimal contact, the Marines could see militants using flashlights late Thursday to signal one another about American troop movements.

Military spokesman Capt. Bill Pelletier said the goal of the Helmand operation was not simply to kill Taliban fighters but to win over the local population — a difficult task in a region where foreigners are viewed with suspicion.

Marines also hope to cut the routes used by militants to funnel weapons, ammunition and fighters from Pakistan to the Taliban, which mounted an increasingly violent insurgency since its hard-line Islamist government was toppled in 2001 by an international coalition.

The new U.S. operation will test the Obama administration's new strategy of holding territory to let the Afghan government establish a presence in rural areas where Taliban influence is strong.

As Operation Khanjar, or "Strike of the Sword," entered its second day, Marines took control of the district centers of Nawa and Garmser, and negotiated entry into Khan Neshin, the capital of Rig district, Pelletier said.

In Nawa, Marines met with about 20 Afghan men and boys, seeking to reassure them that the Americans wanted to protect them from the Taliban.

"Are you going to enter our houses?" asked Mohammad Nabi, 25, who was there with five of his younger brothers. "We are afraid that you will leave, and the Taliban will come back."

They also complained that local police were thieves not to be trusted.

Marine officers promised not to enter homes and said they would remain in the area to keep out the Taliban.

One elder with a gray beard asked the Marines whether they would prevent residents from saying Muslim prayers. The troops assured him they would not.

In one village near Nawa, however, the atmosphere was tense.

"When we asked if they had a village elder or mullah for the American commander to talk to, the answer was no," said Capt. Drew Schoenmaker, a Marine company commander. "It's fear of reprisal. Fear and intimidation is one thing the enemy does very well."

Taking territory from the Taliban has always proved easier than holding it. The challenge is especially great in Helmand because it is a center of Afghanistan's thriving opium production, and drug profits feed both the insurgency and corrupt government officials.

On Wednesday, a British lieutenant colonel was killed in an explosion in Helmand. Lt. Col. Rupert Thorneloe, commander of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was the highest-ranking British officer killed in Afghanistan.

The missile attacks in Pakistan on Friday occurred about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) east of Helmand in the rugged South Waziristan region, according to two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The area is a Taliban stronghold close to the Afghan border where Pakistani troops are gearing up for a major offensive.

Two missiles struck an abandoned seminary in the village of Mantoi used as a training base by militants from Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud's group, the officials said. In the other strike, one missile hit an insurgent communications center in the nearby village of Kokat Khel, they said.

In total, 17 people were killed and 27 others were wounded, they said.

However, Maulvi Noor Syed, an aide to Mehsud, told The Associated Press that only three Taliban fighters died in the strikes.

Also Friday, U.S. troops continued looking for an American soldier believed captured by insurgents, Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo said. The soldier and three Afghans with him went missing on Tuesday in the eastern Paktika province

There was no immediate public claim of responsibility from any insurgent group. Much of the area is controlled by the Taliban faction led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, whom the U.S. has accused of masterminding beheadings and suicide bombings including the July 2008 attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed some 60 people.

Also Friday, Russia announced that it will allow the U.S. to ship weapons across its territory to Afghanistan, providing Washington an alternative route to supply its forces in the landlocked country.

Up until now, Russia has allowed the U.S. to ship non-lethal supplies across its territory for operations in Afghanistan, and Kremlin officials had suggested further cooperation was likely.

Chomsky on "“Crisis and Hope: Theirs and Ours.”

Via Democracy Now/Amy Goodman:
Chomsky, the MIT professor, author and dissident intellectual, just turned eighty years old this past December. He has written over 100 books, but despite being called “the most important intellectual alive” by the New York Times, he is rarely heard in the corporate media. We spend the hour with Noam Chomsky. He spoke recently here in New York at an event sponsored by the Brecht Forum. More than 2,000 people packed into Riverside Church in Harlem to hear his address, titled “Crisis and Hope: Theirs and Ours.” In his talk, Chomsky discussed the global economic crisis, the environment, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, resistance to American empire and much more. [speaking at Riverside Church in Harlem on June 12, 2009; includes rush transcript]:...

"...Well, that’s only a fragment of what’s underway, and it highlights the importance of short- and long-term strategies to build—in part, resurrect—the foundations of a functioning democratic society. One short-term goal is to revive a strong independent labor movement. In its heyday, it was a critical base for advancing democracy and human and civil rights. It’s a primary reason why it’s been subjected to such unremitting attack in policy and propaganda. An immediate goal right now is to pressure Congress to permit organizing rights, the [Employee] Free Choice Act legislation. That was promised but now seems to be languishing. And a longer-term goal is to win the educational and cultural battle that’s been waged with such bitterness in the one-sided class war that the UAW president perceived far too late. That means tearing apart an enormous edifice of delusions about markets, free trade and democracy that’s been assiduously constructed over many years and to overcome the marginalization and atomization of the public.

Now, of all the crises that afflict us, I think my own feeling is that this growing democratic deficit may be the most severe. Unless it’s reversed, Arundhati Roy’s forecast might prove accurate, and not in the distant future. The conversion of democracy to a performance in which the public are only spectators might well lead to—inexorably to what she calls the “endgame for the human race.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Awwwww-some (Thursday Dawg Blawg)

LIGHTEN UP-time! Just because this serious stuff can get a bit toooooo serious:

Most of my favorite 'people" are dogs...These are my two current favorites: Hannah-Stella (l) and Budreau (r)...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Domestic Invasion: Military Takes Over Schools

What are we to make of this? Militarism already has conquered the whole economy, and infested the academy. Now it is moving down into the secondary and even into pre-secondary education. One of the foremost acolytes of this development is Arne Davis, the corpoRat Obamanaut in charge of the US Dept. of Ed.:
The Military Invades U.S. Schools: How Military Academies
Are Being Used to Destroy Public Education

By Brian Roa, Posted July 1, 2009.

In Chicago, there's a push to replace public schools with military academies. This model may soon spread to the rest of the country.

For the past four years, I have observed the military occupation of the high school where I teach science. Currently, Chicago's Senn High School houses Rickover Naval Academy (RNA). I use the term "occupation" because part of our building was taken away despite student, parent, teacher and community opposition to RNA's opening.

Senn students are made to feel like second-class citizens inside their own school, due to inequalities. The facilities and resources are better on the RNA side. RNA students are allowed to walk on the Senn side, while Senn students cannot walk on the RNA side. RNA "disenrolls" students and we accept those students who get kicked out if they live within our attendance boundaries. This practice is against Chicago policy, but goes unchecked. All of these things maintain a two-tiered system within the same school building.

This phenomenon is not restricted to Senn. Chicago has more military academies and more students in JROTC than any other city in the US. As the tentacles of school militarization reach beyond Chicago, the process used in this city seems to serve as a model of expansion. There was a Marine Academy planned for Georgia's Dekalb County, which includes 10 percent of Atlanta. Fortunately, due to protest, the school has been postponed until 2010. Despite it being postponed, it is still useful to analyze the rhetoric used to rationalize the Marine Academy. Many of the lies and excuses used to justify school militarization in Chicago and Georgia may well be used in other cities as militarism grows.

Not for Recruiting?

A favorite lie used to defend the expansion of military academies is that they are not used to recruit for the military.

"This is not a training ground to send kids into the military," Dekalb Schools' Superintendent Crawford Lewis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in March. Those same words could have come straight from Col. Rick Mills, director of military academies and JROTC in Chicago, who explained away recruitment in a similar fashion.

"This is not a recruiting tool, but a way to help students succeed at whatever career they might choose," Mills told the Chicago Tribune.

Yet military academies receive money from the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD would be derelict in its responsibilities were that money not spent as an investment in future soldiers. Accepting the claim that there is no recruiting in military academies makes about as much sense as allowing gangs to fund and operate within schools, on the assumption that they won't recruit on school grounds.

Moreover, since military academies are staffed with ex-service members (many don't even require valid teaching certificates), students are likely to receive career advice that favors a military path.

There are more blatant examples of recruiting at RNA. The cadets - the label applied to students at military academies - have taken a school-sponsored field trip to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Furthermore, last year the school hosted Adm. Michael Mullen, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen told the cadets that the Navy was a "great career choice." RNA has hosted ten admirals in their short four-year history.

In addition to these direct tactics, the academies use more insidious approaches. A military culture permeates these schools. Students dress in uniform, receive demerits, and are introduced to the military hierarchy and way of life. For example, I have witnessed students marching with fake rifles. This cultivation of a militarized mind is the best explanation for why 40 percent of all Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program graduates wind up entering military service. This statistic is especially telling, considering that less than one percent of the population has served in the military at any given moment since 1975.
There are Junior ROTC courses for the Army and the Air Force, as well, on high-school campuses all over the country. The school district in the nearby community of Rio Ranch NM employs a specific ROTC liaison. There's a fetish among many school 'leaders' that the thing that many students "lack" is discipline which it is alleged that "military environments" can remedy. But there is a larger debate, though largely unvoiced, whether the purpose of school is to instill 'discipline' in the first place.