Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Get Unconventional Mail

I kid you not, this showed up in the mail yesterday:

I never ever thought about clam crap before. Ever. Until I got this today.

Turns out it's an ad for a lumber yard. Mr. B was one of their better clients when he was doing remodeling. But holy cow, that's a freaky way to sell a person a 2 X 4 don't you think?

How about that dude's beard.....Anyway consider this an Open Thread until some more outrageousness is exposed.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mental Healthcare Failure Results In A Tragedy

The following is a guest post written by my brother-in-law, Robert Hyde. Our entire and extended families mourn the results of this tragic event, for the victims, for John Hyde, and we continued to be dismayed as to the overall state of healthcare in this country, much less the bitter fruits yielded by a lack of attention and continued stigma to mental health issues. I personally think that without paying specific attention to mental health, specifically as regards returning soldiers who are suiciding at an alarming an unacceptable rate, the recipe as it stands is one for a toxic and potentially even more lethal brew. I ask you to welcome Robert Hyde. -The Unconventional Conventionist

On August 18, 2005, my brother killed five people over a 16-hour period.

The first victim was a New Mexico department of transportation employee, the next two victims were employees of a motorcycle shop and the last two victims were Albuquerque police officers.

My brother had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia for many years prior to this tragedy. He was able to manage his brain disorder by taking medications, many of which had serious side effects.

He had never been violent before and never got in trouble with the law. He graduated from high school in 1975 with honors and could have gone to any college on an academic scholarship, but his illness prevented him from going. Instead he worked on a ranch in Colorado for about twelve years as a caretaker.

Shortly after his diagnosis he moved to Albuquerque so he could have better access to treatment and he lived with our mom whose health was slowly deteriorating. After years of trying different medications and therapy he was able to get fairly stable and even went back to college. He was offered a job as a mental health advocate and then he began to decompensate.

He was having difficulty getting a competent psychiatrist and was again having adverse side effects from the medications. He began to believe that he was mis-diagnosed and either stopped taking his meds or they stopped working the way they should.

Family members said they believe a change in medication, a new therapist who changed Hyde's diagnosis to post-traumatic stress syndrome and alternative treatments caused a decline in Hyde's behavior that began this spring.

Hyde was seeing a psychiatrist and therapist at Kaseman Presbyterian Behavioral Health Care. Since July 1, his care was managed through ValueOptions, a private company that has a state contract to manage behavioral health services for low-income New Mexicans.

A Presbyterian Hospital spokesman said he could not comment on Hyde's treatment because of federal privacy laws.

"We're very confident in the care that was provided," Todd Sandman said.

In the fall of 2004, Hyde's cousin, physician Christian Meuli, said Hyde told him he was upset about his diagnosis change and treatment.

In a letter to Presbyterian Behavioral Health Care, Hyde wrote that he was dissatisfied with his doctor.

"I must emphasize that my life was a joy to live, symptom free, until November 2," he wrote. "Since then, I have been living minute to minute. The side effects are many and unpleasant."

In the spring and summer of 2005, his family was desperately trying to get help for him and he was also trying to get help. He was denied treatment on several occasions and was released from the hospital after only seven days, which was not nearly long enough for him to become stabilized.

Robert Hyde said when he questioned his brother's therapist about the decision he was told that they would have to wait until John Hyde "escalates."

John Hyde's cell phone records also showed that he made daily calls to Kaseman in the weeks leading up to Aug. 18. His family believes he was trying to get help.

On August 18, 2005 he reached his breaking point. That morning I was getting ready to go to work and noticed that two tires were slashed. After I got home from work the phone starting ringing. Employees from the hospital he went to called and told me that my brother was making threats toward them. They said they were going to have him brought in involuntarily for a mental health evaluation. I was glad that perhaps he would finally get the treatment he so much needed. The police called and asked me for a description of my brother. I told them I hoped that no one would get hurt and I also told them I thought he could be dangerous. The officer, who was the sergeant of the Crisis Intervention Team, assured me that they didn’t want anyone to get hurt either.

The evening of Aug. 18, Robert Hyde said he was relieved when Sgt. Jan Olstad, head of the Albuquerque Police Department's Crisis Intervention team, called him to tell him officers would be sent to pick up his brother.

"I told Olstad I was worried about it going down OK and no one getting hurt," Robert Hyde said. "He got me calmed down. He told me he had this team that was well-trained."

Police spokesman John Walsh said Smith received crisis-intervention training when he worked for UNM's psychiatric hospital between his employment with the police department.

All officers receive crisis training at the police academy and during ongoing job training, Walsh said in a statement.

Later that night the same officer called and said that my brother had shot and killed some people. We didn’t know what happened until three or four in the morning when the police finally announced that my brother had killed the two police officers who were sent to pick him up for a mental health evaluation. Through ballistics testing they also discovered that the same gun was used to kill two employees of a motorcycle shop and the department of transportation employee earlier that day.

I had to tell my mom this news, and that was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.

To say that our country is in need of mental health care reform is a huge understatement. We see tragedies similar to this across the country much too frequently. We don’t need more laws that threaten people’s rights, so called "Kendra’s Laws," what we need is better quality mental health services and better access to these services.

Robert Hyde
Unconventional Conventionist: Then of course, there is the aftermath. The hell through which all the families had to trod - the media. The story aired on Dateline last year, and the transcript is here, where the reader will find what the victim's families had to say, as well as more insight from Robert.

Robert was also interviewed on local Albuquerque news:

Their mother has since passed away.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Agribusiness to Blame for World Food Crisis

It looks like agribusiness caused the world food shortage deliberately.

The World Food Crisis by John Nichols in The Nation:
The only surprising thing about the global food crisis to Jim Goodman is the notion that anyone finds it surprising.

"So," says the Wisconsin dairy farmer, "they finally figured out, after all these years of pushing globalization and genetically modified [GM] seeds, that instead of feeding the world we've created a food system that leaves more people hungry.
The current global food system, which was designed by US-based agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill, Monsanto and ADM and forced into place by the US government and its allies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, has planted the seeds of disaster by pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash crops for export and alternative fuels rather than grow healthy food for local consumption and regional stability.
Beyond humanitarian responses, the cure for what ails the global food system--and an unsteady US farm economy--is not more of the same globalization and genetic gimmickry. That way has left thirty-seven nations with food crises while global grain giant Cargill harvests an 86 percent rise in profits and Monsanto reaps record sales from its herbicides and seeds.

Who wants to bet that the proposed solution will be more of the same globalization and genetic gimmickry? That's the way the world works these days.
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking
we used when we created them."
-- Albert Einstein --
No, but the multinationals can reap obscene profits on the crises they themselves have created.

Cross-posted to Ice Station Tango

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Mob Presents: Excellent Blogger Awards!

HopeSpringsATurtle recently nominated this Unruly Mob for an Excellent Blog Award, for which we are truly grateful. Unruly, mobbish, pitchfork and torch loaded, yet grateful. The Mob has graciously consented to let me present the following unruly consensus of not only Excellent but Fabulous blogs. So, we continue with the spirit of the award, and following are the blogs we wish to honor.

First, on this cycle, JollyRoger of Reconstitution was noted and awarded, and passed the honor to Hope of Deep Confusion and to Christopher of From the Left as well. You folks are great blogmates and we wanted to make sure and acknowledge all three of you fine bloggers. Kudos to you and keep up the fine work! What we Mobsters are doing is passing the love further down the road. All of you may expect an unruly, rude or snarky comment from me today on your blog. (I know, just what you've been waiting for. )

Without further ado (video version first, text following for dial-up users) The Mob would like to recognize:

Blue Gal: Blue Gal. Smart. Connected. A Zen Blog Mistress for folks just getting into blogging. She's one of the finest humans on the intertubes. We find her panty-thing quite unruly, as we at the Mob are often pant-free. BG, we all hope your move to your new place goes extra smooth for you!

We move from one of the the finer humans on the intertubes, to some fine simians.

Dr. Zaius: Who else could chronicle the solving of the Iraq War by the Partridge Family! Aside from the fact that Dr. Zaius is just flat out cool, (despite the fact that he usuallly has "No time for blogging today!) there's a bizarre feature about his age. He is actually NEGATIVE 1787 years old! I think he doesn't look a day over Negative 1788. I am sure folks will not use age-ism as a reason to not vote for the Zaius/Gregarious '08 ticket, the only Ape/Lesbian ticket I know of this cycle. Besides, Dr. Zaius fights crime!

And by crime I mean Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein of Monkey Muck, our next Excellent Blog of note. Quite an unruly simian in his own right. I love the "Cooking with Dr. Monkey" posts the most, but I wonder if that's because I am under the influence of the "Monkerstein Mind Control Fez." Could be. But it was more likely that admiration of Dr. Monkerstein zenithed when he kicked Cindy McCain off his blog! Dr. Monkerstein just recently had his First Blogoversary too. Congratulations!

From the Fez, to the Cowboy Hat.

Len Hart: First, Len's pedigree is just excellent. In fact, I think Len was a "proto-blogger" He's interviewed Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr., Nelson Rockefeller, Watergate Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, David S. Broder, Sen. Fritz Hollings, Sen. John Tower, Beverly Sills, Gloria Steinem, Sen. Sam Ervin, Bella Abzug, George Plimpton, Milton Friedman, Ehud Olmert, John Wayne, Mel Brooks, and many "movie stars", politicians, and other celebs.

Len's most recent series culminating in Bush's Conspiracy to Create an American Police State: Part VI, The government places itself above the law is both thorough and disturbing. Read the whole series.

And for another recent writer of a series, DistributorcapNY: DCap wrote a series leading up to Passover about acts of bravery during that heinous and dictatorial time of the Nazis, culminating in this post: Poignant, moving and relentless when we consider there is rampant spinelessness today.

When you look at that final "Acts of Bravery" post by DCap, you'll see the first comment is by FranIAm, the next nominee for an Excellent Blog Award from the Mob. Fran is Smart. Funny. Irreverant. I'll do my best to pronounce "masturbatorium." Don't take it personally Fran.

But wait! Yes I Do Take It Personally Profmarcus recently blogged about food issues, near and dear to me as long time Mob readers know, and that's not the only topic. Several of the Mobsters have favorite posts and posters at YIDTIP.

Speaking of food, Eat. Your. Grain. Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors that is. With brevity of wit, simultaneously profane and elegant. Bravo!

More Bravo; driftglass is a legend. His visual work is beyond remarkable.

The Spam Catcher Mark II as a perma-post till the end of this month is a brilliant use of blogger technology and is just the "ut" if you ask me."So Fear Me. And so forth."

We can't go to black without Fade. "Dick Cheney is Mr. Drysdale" is just one recent example Fade's talent.

So thanks again to HopeSpringsATurtle for nominating this unruly crew. We all really appreciate it. Blog On!

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Merger Between Church and State?

The Florida Legislature is considering a national first: producing license plates with a distinctively religious theme.
Let's cut right to the chase:

The problem with the state manufacturing the plate is that it "sends a message that Florida is essentially a Christian state" and, second, gives the "appearance that the state is endorsing a particular religious preference," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

No kidding.

And this is not the first controversial plate. Florida, like Colorado and other states sadly, already has vanity plates whose proceeds go to quasi-religious, if not outright religious organizations.

More from the Channel 2 article:
Florida's specialty license plates require the payment of additional fees,
some of which go to causes the plates endorse.

One plate approved in 2004, displaying the motto "Family First," funds
Sheridan House, which provides family programs but also sees its purpose as "sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Bible" and "information about the Christian faith."

The bill creating the "I Believe" plate would also create an "In God We
Trust" plate to benefit the children of soldiers and law enforcement officers
whose parents have died. It also could face opposition as a violation of the separation of church and state.

An Indiana plate with the same "In God We Trust" phrase has been
challenged by the ACLU, but the courts so far have deemed it legal, arguing that it is comparable with other specialty plates.

This isn't the first time a Florida license plate design has created
religious controversy. In 1999, lawmakers approved a bright yellow "Choose Life" license plate with a picture of a boy and girl. It raises money for agencies that encourage women to not have abortions.

That generated a court battle, with abortion rights groups saying the plate
had religious overtones. But it was ruled legal, and about a dozen states now have similar plates.

A "Trust God" license plate was proposed in Florida in 2003. It would have given money to Christian radio stations and charities, but it was never

Earlier this year, a legislative committee was shown an image of a
"Trinity" plate that showed a Christlike figure with his arms outstretched. It
and two other plates were voted down.

The group asking for the "I Believe" plate, the Orlando-based nonprofit
Faith in Teaching Inc., supports faith-based schools activities. The plate would cost drivers an extra $25 annual fee.

And you guessed it, my religion is not represented on a state-pressed plate, but IS expressed in what someone chose to put on this Virginia plate.

(I'm a big fan of HP Lovecraft, but technically I am an adherent of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Marinara Orthodoxy if you please.)

People can put whatever they want on their cars. Yellow ribbons, Pink ribbons, plastic Jesuses, Dashboard Shrines, anything. That's perfectly acceptable self-expression. But the state should in no way ever be involved in producing religious iconography of any kind whatsoever at any time for any purpose. Once it starts, it won't stop.

Sinclair Lewis had it right: "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross. "

Buckle up, it's still gonna be a bumpy ride for the next couple years fighting the battle to keep Church and State separate.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Random Primaries - The Time Has Come

Greetings from Pennsylvania where primary fever and the contest between Senators Clinton and Obama culminates this evening. Oh sure, there are other primaries, but this is the 'do-or-die' contest for Senator Clinton, right? And I must say that I see much more electoral enthusiasm here than I did in California two months back, but unfortunately there's still a subtext that bothers me—a commonality between my home state and the state where I happen to be vacationing: No group should be cut out of the democratic process the way large and influential states have been in the past. Nor should any state be disenfranchised by party elites the way Florida and Michigan will be at the Democratic convention—merely because they had the temerity to make themselves influential through early primaries.

The plain fact is that the sacredness of the primary schedule is an undemocratic blight on the presidential election process. Residents of Iowa and New Hampshire don't have some god-given right to exert influence far exceeding their populations. Moreover, the unprecedented length of this campaign is not only an enormous waste of money and resources, it's a waste of the scant attention span that most of us have to devote to the campaign.

The primary schedule is like the Electoral College in the way it perverts the process. Where the former gives candidates the opportunity to attack and hopefully eliminate each other while only catering to small slice of the electorate, the latter does the same for the nominees, reducing the whole election to a few 'battleground' states where the margins between parties are razor thin. Good for the parties; good for the candidates; bad for democracy. And we're not going to be able to fix the electoral college anytime soon, but the primary schedule? That we can fix, and deal with the 'never-ending campaign' at the same time. "How?" You may ask. Simple: Randomize the primary schedule.

For argument's sake, let's say that nobody gets to announce their candidacy or raise a single dime of money before June 1st of the election year. Then...for 12 weeks beginning the first Tuesday before the July 4th holiday, we hold 4 primaries each week from a randomized list drawn up on the same day as the candidates' announcements. (We'll do six in the last week to bring things to a close on a Super Tuesday in September.) Then...two weeks to the conventions and 6 weeks to the general election.

VOILA! How patriotic! How efficient! How democratic! No more elections that resemble candidate-crushing, attention-sapping marathons characterized more by the amount of money spent than the issues raised and discussed. No more watching states that comprise 60% of the electorate get sidelined—2008 being the only counter-argument of the last 40 years. Now if only we could do away with the Electoral College.

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Democracy Now! Comes to Denver

Gotta tell ya, I just love Amy Goodman. Yesterday, she was here in Denver, and broadcast her show.

Natural folks to interview in Denver would of course be Mark Cohen from Recreate '68, and the legal director of Colorado ACLU, Mark Silverstein, who has been lecturing/teaching what a person's rights are to protest during the Democratic National Convention this coming August.

You can watch the whole broadcast here, but I am just posting the transcript of the interview with Cohen and Silverstein. (The supplemental links are mine.)

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Denver, Colorado, from the PBS station KBDI, where Democracy Now! broadcasts here in Denver. Yes, Denver will play host to the Democratic National Convention this August, and preparations are well under way for the big event. It remains to be seen whether the Democrats will ultimately take their fight for a presidential candidate all the way to the convention. But for many activists tired of the two-party system and the ongoing war, they will be demonstrating at the convention, regardless of who the final nominee is.

As Denver readies to sign contracts with dozens of security agencies ahead of the convention, we look at some of the concerns around the rights of the protesters and how lawyers and activists are preparing to protect demonstrators.

Mark Silverstein is on the phone with us, legal director of the ACLU in Colorado. We’re also joined in the studio at KBDI by Mark Cohen. He is an organizer with Recreate ’68, a group of activists attempting to greet this year’s Democratic National Convention with the same demands of accountability and ending the war that animated protesters in Chicago forty years ago. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Mark Cohen, what are your plans for this convention?

MARK COHEN: Thank you, Amy. We plan to have a massive presence during the Democratic National Convention in August. We will be having a number of major demonstrations, including on the Sunday, the day before the convention begins, what will probably be the biggest antiwar march and rally that Denver has seen at least since Vietnam. We’re also working with some of the major immigrant rights groups on the Tuesday, to have what we think will be a very large immigrant rights march and rally.

But we’re not only involved in protest activities. We’re also staging what
we’re calling the Festival of Democracy, which will be a five-day event in
downtown Denver, during which we will have trainings, workshops, teach-ins, and provide people the opportunity to come together and learn about alternatives to the two-party system, solutions that communities can provide to their own problems. We’re also, during that, going to have a 24/7 free health clinic, legal services, two feedings a day in cooperation with Food Not Bombs and other services for the community.

AMY GOODMAN: And who is “we”?

MARK COHEN: We are Recreate ’68, which is a group of local Denver activists. We began planning for the Democratic National Convention actually before we found out that Denver had been given the convention. It looked like a fairly certain thing. So we’ve been planning for about a year and a half now. We’ve been talking with the city to try to ensure that people’s First Amendment rights would be protected during the convention. We’ve been working with national organizations, among them United for Peace and Justice, CODEPINK and others, as well as numerous Colorado organizations, to prepare for this event, to try to use the attention and the excitement and the energy generated by this major event to kind of kick organizing in Denver up to another level.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Silverstein, you’re legal director of the Colorado ACLU. What are the city’s plans for these protests?

MARK SILVERSTEIN: Well, you’re asking me to tell you the city’s plans, and unfortunately the city has not responded to some of our requests for information about those plans. I can tell you that political conventions like this have historically been marked by struggles over law enforcement’s attempt to balance interest in security with the First Amendment rights of the public and protesters. And in the past, that balance has sometimes been subjected to judicial review, and courts have disagreed with law enforcement about the proper balance.

And since 9/11, I think the issues have even gotten more intense. We
know in Boston in 2004, the city provided what it called a “demonstration zone” outside of the convention that the district court said was like a concentration camp and an affront to the First Amendment. But there wasn’t enough time for the court to fully evaluate it and issue an order that would remedy the problems.

We have been trying to find out what it will look like, what kind of
regulations will apply to First Amendment activity near the site of the
convention. And so far, Denver has been either unwilling or unable to discuss any of that in detail, pointing to the Secret Service as the ultimate shot caller for security at the convention. And the Secret Service has said, well, it won’t have details to reveal to the public until sometime this summer, maybe as late as August. And, of course, that might be far too late to have any negotiation over the arrangements for First Amendment activity and certainly too late for an opportunity for judicial review. So that’s very much a concern for us.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at a piece just recently in the Denver Post, “No Cages for DNC Protesters,” that according to Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown, protesters will not be confined to cages during the Democratic National Convention. The city wants to get away from the long lines of shoulder-to-shoulder, riot gear-clad police that typified security, saying, “We don’t want to provoke violence.” Mark?

MARK SILVERSTEIN: And that’s a very commendable sentiment. And, you know, at the ACLU, we certainly hope that what Councilman Brown says will indeed be the reality. But, you know, there’s a question that I always ask when somebody in government makes an assurance like that. I ask, “Well, how do they know?” because when we’ve talked with the city officials or when we’ve read what’s quoted in the newspaper, the answer always is, “Well, we don’t know yet, because the Secret Service ultimately makes the decision, and the Secret Service isn’t saying, at least publicly.”

So there’s a rumor that there’s going to be a one-mile radius hard security
perimeter around the convention site. And then you can occasionally read in the paper, somebody will debunk that as a rumor. It’s not true that there will be a one-mile security zone around the convention, but yet, when you talk to the city people who ought to know, they say, “Well, we don’t know yet.” And if they don’t know, then how do they know there won’t be a one-mile security radius? There must be some plans already formulated.

AMY GOODMAN: Keeping protesters one mile away from the Pepsi Center? That’s where the Democratic Convention is going to be?

MARK SILVERSTEIN: That’s correct. That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: According to Colorado Confidential, a web publication, the Denver Police Department is using taxpayer money to buy new security equipment in preparation for the DNC but is refusing to disclose exactly what the purchases are, saying that revealing the information would be contrary to the public interest. Mark Cohen, what do you know about that?

MARK COHEN: We do know that the city council has allocated $5 million for new weapons for the Denver Police Department. We know that in St. Paul, they have issued tasers to every single officer on the force. We’re aware that there are new weapons out there that are being ostensibly used for crowd control in places like Iraq. But we’ve seen a report on 60 Minutes, for example, where they were doing field tests with these weapons, and the people they were testing on were dressed as protesters and carrying protest-type signs. So we have a feeling that the field tests for these new weapons are going to be at the Democratic National Convention and possibly the Republican Convention, as well. So, the weapons that are being designed primarily for military use are going to be used on peaceful, nonviolent protesters.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the things that we’ve seen at the conventions past is the level of infiltration by police and also surveillance. Now, Mark Cohen, you were a plaintiff in the Denver spy files case.


AMY GOODMAN: Explain what that was.

MARK COHEN: We discovered in—I believe it was 2001, that the—or maybe earlier than that, but we discovered that the Denver Police Department had been keeping what they called “criminal intelligence files” on people who had engaged in no criminal activity but simply exercised their First Amendment rights in protests and demonstrations. There were labels on these files, such as “criminal extremist.” And the information in these files was, first of all, not the kind of information that had any relationship to criminal activity. They had – people had written letters to the editors of local papers - and they had stuck these in files. And they also had a good deal of false information.

My wife, who is a middle-aged Jewish woman, was identified as belonging to a white racist motorcycle gang that dealt in drugs and weapons. So, we’re obviously very concerned about this, especially because we discovered that these files were being shared with other law enforcement agencies. And in the atmosphere after 9/11, this is a very dangerous thing to be identified as a criminal extremist and as, presumably, a security threat. So we did sue the city and got out of the suit a change in policy, which prevents the Denver Police Department from collecting intelligence information on people who are not actually engaged in criminal activity.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we are going to leave it there for now but certainly will continue to follow this. Mark Cohen with us from Recreate ’68 and Mark Silverstein on the line with us, legal director of the Colorado ACLU, I want to thank you both for being with us.

MARK COHEN: Thank you.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Long Flight Home

Greetings from Frankfurt Flughafen. My last hours in Germany are going by, looking out at a sky as gray as the tarmac. Yesterday I had a beautiful morning shopping downtown. In total I walked over 14 miles through the city and, with a daily pass costing 5.80 Euros, could ride the public transportation anywhere (now why can’t the “most technologically advanced nation on Earth” have a deal like that outside of a few select cities?). And did. As soon as I can get it processed, I promise you my “Frankfurt bei Nacht” photo.

Today’s a good day to leave. The last two weeks we’ve had two decent days; otherwise, the weather could be described as either bad (not raining but cold and overcast) or terrible (cold and overcast with wet snow or rain). But that’s pretty typical of German weather this time of year. My cat-sitter tells me my cats miss human contact terribly so it’s time to go home. I’ve lived here, I love Germany but now, homesickness rules.

Leaving Germany is as unbureaucratic as entering. They put you through security – you can leave your shoes on – the beamter scans and stamps your passport then you’re in the airport. Lots of shops with stuff you can’t afford with the weak dollar, lots of people coming and going. It’s airport hell, a world where they intentionally make the departure lounges unappealing and uncomfortable to convince those who can and will pay for business class and higher that they’re actually getting something extra for their money, apart, that is, from a seat that will hold someone bigger than a ten year old in relative comfort. Air travel sucks and we’re the idiots for accepting it. We get stuffed into small seats, delayed, bags lost, put through vast self-sorting machinery called airports, fed bad food at outrageous prices, kept in conditions you can’t legally put a prisoner in and we pay vast sums for it. Is it fast? For a trip of this length, yes. For anything under 400 miles, drive. By the time you count all the time and cost, you’ve saved nothing by flying.

Don’t even get me started on Southwest, American and the FAA trying to eke out a bit of profit by skimping on safety inspections. I really hope that no one flies American after this. The shareholders who will accept these business practices deserve to lose vast sums of money. Instead I predict Chapter 11, all debts forgiven, and a weak company goes back into competition with other weak companies. We have lost three airlines and one is in bankruptcy but still flying in two weeks. It’s going to be a tough year.

And I work in aviation. Hell of a recommendation for my industry. I can hardly wait to get to Denver and US Immigration and Customs. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia – it will be interesting to compare the two countries’ entry procedures.

Entering the US after the long flight, well, we don’t compare well against Saudi Arabia. I filled out no forms on the way over. At least now there’s only one for US citizens. The Dane setting next to me had two to fill out and had to leave his fingerprints. Oh, well, I guess the terrists aren’t out to get Europe, no fingerprints left behind by this (somewhat ugly) American. We got back, were stuck on the tarmac for maybe fifteen minutes waiting for Air Canada to push back then into the gate.

We are such a friendly nation. We greet the foreigners with the faces of those who should be checking our visas on the way in, the American Indians. I found it ironic that the faces of the original Americans greeted me, an American of the European variety, as I proceeded to Customs as established by the European variety. We’re separated by staircases, US citizens to the right, all others to the left. We wait for the friendly immigrations guy. Since I was away on business, the Immigrations Guy asked me in a somewhat hostile tone, “So you were on business.” Yes, I answer and then the Immigrations Guy, determined not to let a hostile into the US asks me “What did you bring back?”

“My luggage, a couple bottles of wine,” I said in a very disgusted tone. Immigrations Guy stamps my passport and I’m off to Customs. Then, the long wait. I was early at Frankfurt which meant my luggage was late getting off the carousel. And of course, someone certain I was about to blow up the plane or something at my destination had checked to make sure the two bottles of wine, the digital camera and the dozen Ueberaschungseier had cut open the box the Lufthansa desk agent in Frankfurt had given me to save me 40 Euros in overweight fees. Made it a bit tough to carry but I got it, walked to Customs with my German colleagues and was once again free and clear in the US.

Think of it as you will, I see entry into the US as the triumph of the paranoid. But hey, it’s good to be home.

At least now that the jet lag has passed. Tchuess!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Debate That Wasn't

...But So Easily Could Have Been

Pretty much everybody in Greater Left BlogSylvania has given an emphatic thumbs down to ABC News for their execrable performance 'moderating' last night's so-called debate between the remaining Democratic primary candidates. Crooks and Liars quickly declared, "Attention ABC: You're Hurting America!" and in a later post linked a lot of the reaction from their journalistic colleagues;
E&P’s Greg Mitchell called it “perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years.” The Washington Post’s Tom Shales called it “step downward for network news,” and noted that the moderators delivered “shoddy, despicable performances.” Will Bunch noted, “Quickly, a word to any and all of my fellow journalists who happen to read this open letter. This. Must . Stop.” Salon’s Walter Shapiro added:
This is the way it ends, not with a bang but a whimper. If Wednesday night’s fizzle in Philly was indeed the last debate of the Democratic primary season between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it will be remembered for, well, not much of anything.

Broadcast to a prime-time network audience on ABC and devoid of a single policy question during its opening 50 minutes, the debate easily could have convinced the uninitiated that American politics has all the substance of a Beavis and Butt-Head marathon.
These are typical responses, with more Here, Here, and Here from Huffington Post, Here from Talking Points Memo, Here from Truthdig... A lot of the posts use adjectives like 'shameful' and 'embarrassing' or Josh Marshall's 'unmitigated travesty.' Many quote Tom Shale's editorial, but the best link to and/or quote Will Bunch at Attytood:
With your performance tonight -- your focus on issues that were at best trivial wastes of valuable airtime and at worst restatements of right-wing falsehoods (my emphasis), punctuated by inane "issue" questions that in no way resembled the real world concerns of American voters -- you disgraced my profession of journalism, and, by association, me and a lot of hard-working colleagues who do still try to ferret out the truth, rather than worry about who can give us the best deal on our capital gains taxes. But it's even worse than that. By so badly botching arguably the most critical debate of such an important election, in a time of both war and economic misery, you disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself. Indeed, if I were a citizen of one of those nations where America is seeking to "export democracy," and I had watched the debate, I probably would have said, "no thank you." Because that was no way to promote democracy.
To say that this is the smoking gun that belies the idea of a left-leaning bias in the media would be a gross understatement of the plain truth. To say that ABC has completely blown their cover as anything other than a shill for the Republican party (and we SO need more of those with FOX, CNN, etc., etc., all acting as Republican megaphones /snark) almost goes without saying.

To belabor the point further would accomplish nothing (he says after belaboring the point into the ground.) So, I admit, it is only now that I begin this post properly, with another point brought up in yet another post at DailyKos. The Great Orange Satan himself brings up a seemingly innocuous point that really needs to be expanded upon:
I honestly don't understand why Democrats haven't learned to ignore the bullshit substance-less questions and simply say, "Okay, that's a dumb question. Let's talk about something people care about, like the housing crisis."

Just bypass the idiotic questioners and talk about the things that the Democratic primary electorate actually want to talk about.

Trust me, they'll get brownie points, and the idiot questioners will look like idiots in the process.

Good point. DAMN good point in fact. Why didn't the Democratic presidential candidates - who are vying for the most powerful job in the world, who represent a party that has earned a reputation of being a collection of spineless wimps, who desperately need to shed that characterization - take an opportunity to EMPOWER themselves in the eyes of the US electorate, TAKE CONTROL of the situation and SHOW SOME LEADERSHIP for a change? The fact that they didn't is almost as shameful as ABC's handling of the debate, when you consider it in context.

First let's consider how it might have gone:
Stephanopolous: (Asks bullshit question about lapel flag pins.)

Obama: I don't think that question is of much concern to the American people, George. (bonus points here if Obama can cite survey showing exactly how few people actually care about this) And I won't, by providing an answer, embarrass you for having asked it.

Audience: Overwhelming and sustained applause. Several voices can be heard yelling 'Shut up George. Just shut the f#$k up.'

Obama: Instead I'd like to talk about the direction this country should be taking in foreign policy. That OK with you Senator?

Clinton: I'm good to go.

(Obama pulls an egg timer out of inside jacket pocket, sets it on the podium.He talks for three minutes until the sand runs out, turns the timer over, nods to Clinton, who then talks for three minutes.)

Clinton: (takes the timer, turns it over) OK, now I'd like to talk about my plan to provide affordable health care for all Americans.
...and so on,
...and so on,
Gibson: OK, I hate to interrupt, but we have to break for commercial now.
During the commercial break the two candidates let the moderator and news director know that if they don't want to completely lose all credibility with their viewers (which they seem to have done regardless, at least as far as Democrats are concerned) they had better play nice after the break.

Considering the fact that the studio audience actually booed, jeered and heckled Charles Gibson as he was going to break, Kos's judgment that they would have gotten brownie points looks pretty sound. So a huge opportunity was lost. And I think that a case can be made that what did happen last night was predictable enough that Obama or Clinton really could have showed up at the studio with an egg timer in their pocket or handbag, prepared for the worst.

Consider the magnitude of this lost golden opportunity. An act like described above could well have completely destroyed a key weapon in the Republican arsenal: media complicity. This would have been such a DEFINING MOMENT in the campaign as to have a resonating effect on every moment that came after. Every news item on every media outlet, TV, radio and print would have instantly been framed with the expectation that bullshit was now going to be called bullshit. Every pundit would be aware that what they said was actually being listened to and evaluated not only for its truth but also for its relevance. The substitution of style for substance would have been utterly forestalled, and with very little effort. And I for one believe that on substance the Democrats can cruise to a win in November.

What a crying shame that only Kos thought of this, and only after the fact. An independent media, free of undue corporate influence, is as essential as independent politicians and parties. And you're not going to get the latter unless you fight for the former.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jump-starting the Death Machine.

You know, I started out the day on a natural high. I mean, a high. All the hard work of our local teachers’ union paid off, as we helped to get our school budget proposal passed by a huge margin, the first budget to pass in three years. We helped elect two solid, teacher-friendly, education-friendly school board members. I was juiced.

Then I saw this when I got home:

WASHINGTON (AP) April 16 - The Supreme Court upheld the most common method of lethal injections executions Wednesday, clearing the way for states to resume executions that have been on hold for nearly 7 months.

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, turned back a constitutional challenge to the procedures in place in Kentucky, which uses three drugs to sedate, paralyze and kill inmates. Similar methods are used by roughly three dozen states.

The governor of Virginia lifted his state’s moratorium on executions two hours after the high court issued its ruling.

“We … agree that petitioners have not carried their burden of showing that the risk of pain from maladministration of a concededly humane lethal injection protocol, and the failure to adopt untried and untested alternatives, constitute cruel and unusual punishment,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in an opinion that garnered only three votes. Four other justices, however, agreed with the outcome.

Roberts’ opinion did leave open subsequent challenges to lethal injection practices if a state refused to adopt an alternative method that significantly reduced the risk of severe pain.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented…

The rest here.

We actually got it right here in New Jersey earlier this year when, after years of work, abolitionists got the death penalty outlawed, for good.

Now we have to go back to work, on the rest of you folks.

And this ruling came down at almost the exact time as our president was meeting in public with the Pope, talking about how all life is “sacred.”

“In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred and that each of us is willed, each of us is loved, and each of us is necessary,” the president said, drawing sustained applause.

Right. All life is sacred. Let’s think on that one, shall we?

Wall Street Journal Spoof Hits Newsstands

...Hilarity Ensues

Richard Belzer was talking on AAR yesterday about My Wall Street Journal, a spoof that anticipates the decline of journalism at the real WSJ now that Rupert Murdoch owns the already quite conservative paper. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Murdoch 'parity' hits newsstands

A nude caricature of Anne Coulter, a not-so-subtle joke about John McCain and death taxes, as well as a few swipes at media baron Rupert Murdoch make up the highlights reel of a Wall Street Journal satire that was dropped on newsstands today.

Released to coincide with tax day, the newspaper parody titled My Wall Street Journal (a dig at Murdoch's ownership of MySpace, as well as the Journal) hit on the theme of media consolidation. In particular, Murdoch's ownership of Fox News, which the satire implied would have a detrimental and sensationalizing effect on the Journal's reporting.
No online version has yet been sighted, but the New York Times reports the WSJ sending employees out to buy up all copies before they get in the hands of the public.
It seems someone at The Wall Street Journal really likes a biting new parody of the paper — likes it enough, in fact, to leave at least one newsstand with no copies remaining for anyone else to buy.

It was not supposed to go on sale until this week, but some newsstands began selling it early. Last Thursday, Alexander Laurence was working at one such stand in Los Angeles, chatting with a customer, David Metz, when, both of them say, a man in a shirt with a Journal logo asked if anyone had seen a paper that looked sort of like The Journal.

“This guy comes by all the time to bring promotional stuff for The Wall Street Journal — bags, coin trays, stickers,” Mr. Laurence said.

Sure enough, they found what he was looking for. “He grabbed them all, said, ‘I need to buy all of these,’ ” Mr. Laurence said. “He had been going around to different stands, buying them.”

The man paid with a corporate American Express card. “At first he’s saying they have to make a correction or it’s not supposed to be out yet,” Mr. Metz said. “But then he said these are not published by The Wall Street Journal.”

A spokesman for The Journal, Robert H. Christie, declined to comment.

It looks like the spoofers expected just such a move. They were ready with yet another brilliant spoof, in the form of this YouTube vid showing Murdoch in a tirade against the paper spoof, and (he he) ordering that all copies of My WSJ be bought up and burnt.

'Murdoch' on YouTube

That spoof was good enough to fool the author of the above-cited Seattle PI article. But The Gawker saw right through it, as well as weighing in with some other important background:
Incidentally, the Murdoch imports at the Wall Street Journal continue to tread on the newspaper's delicate sensibilities. You'll remember Marcus Brauchli, the Journal's managing editor, had a speech ready to welcome his new overlords, but they never called on him. That was just the first humiliation.
Here's another very watchable YouTube vid discussing Murdoch's impact on 'journalism' in America so far, and the likely impact on the real WSJ. In case you don't click, I'll give you this brilliant characterization of Murdoch from Bill Moyers, "He is to propriety what the Marquis de Sade was to chastity. When it comes to money and power he's carnivorous; all appetite and no taste. He'll eat anything in his path." Keith Olbermann is none too pleased with Murdoch either.

Lamentably there is no online version of the spoof (yet), so the best I can provide is this image of the front page. This one looks to be a pretty effective antidote to Murdoch's corporate propaganda machine. The Wall Street Journal is dead. Long live My Wall Street Journal.
UPDATE: Huge hat-tip goes to Gary SF in comments. We now have a link to (click the graphic above to go there.) You get a readable blow-up of part of the front page, and ordering info, NOT an online edition. We're breaking our unwritten unruly unrule about not promoting anything commercial for this because:
1) - It's brilliant satire.
2) - It puts a vital message in front of the American public, "your media is bought and paid for by giant corporations and can't be trusted."
3) - We can. It's at times like this that I most love being unruly.

Cross-posted to Ice Station Tango

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Let's have a little look, before we can't...

This past Sunday here in Denver, there was an yearly event. Doors Open Denver is literally that; many doors thrown wide open. Places you don't normally get to enter.

I took the opportunity to go and snag some footage of the Pepsi Center and it's proximity to the 16th Street Mall, and just overall place it in relation to town.

Sorry I am just not the best camera person in the world. But I think you'll be able to understand that The Powers That Be have put the Convention in a very controlled spot. More footage later of Civic Center Park where I think most of the action is going to be, what with the upcoming battle of the Recreate '68 morons.

The problem with all this, is that the happy gasbag traditional media will be conveniently able to ignore whatever they won't want to see. Damn.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Federal Warning Alert and Response Network - Adventures In Scrolling

Now that the FCC is getting into the act regarding texting disaster and attack messages to your mobile device, I thought it might be time for a little post I wrote back in 2006:


[scroll down]


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[scroll down]


[scroll down]


[scroll down]

...A TEST.

The article wonders what will be done for those of us who ignore text messages on our phones. I wonder what's going to happen the first time somebody abuses this ill-conceived system? PANIC!


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Statehood for Iraq

One of the primary reasons Iraq should be made a state is to keep us from bombing it again the next time oil-thirsty neo-neocons with light crude dripping from their fangs manage to steal another election. In fact, John McCain may not even need to steal this one if the tenor of the seemingly endless Democratic nomination process continues to distract from the vulgarity of our endless occupation in Iraq.

If McCain succeeds, then we're off to a great start on the 100 years in Iraq plan. His supporters are angry at the way McCain's critics have seized on the 100 years in Iraq comment. Too bad. He said it. He may have meant 100 years like the the comparatively tranquil ones our military spent in post-war Germany. It's not like Germany, Korea or Japan because this is an insurgency.

Even Dick Cheney saw the insurgency coming a decade away. In 1994, Dick Cheney eloquently made the case for not occupying Iraq. Cheney asked way back then, "How many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?" He answered himself quite correctly, "Our view was not very many, and I think we got it right."

Yet, as it dawned on the American people that we were looking at an occupation in prelude to a bloody, chaotic civil war, President Bush repeatedly pretended like Iraqis wanted us there as an occupying force. Bush claimed that U.S. forces would leave when the Iraqis asked us to, then Bush very cleverly made sure no one ever asked them. The problem for Bush is that some people actually have memories, even in ADD HD America.

Even Saturday Night Live, which may have saved Clinton's campaign when they skewered the media's allegedly unfair treatment of her several weeks ago, now has forcefully lampooned Senator Clinton's claim that she was against the war at the time of the resolution, authorizing George W. Bush to use force in Iraq in October of 2002, three weeks before an important midterm election, of which she voted in the affirmative.

In a sketch that that aired April 12, 2008, SNL parodied the mutually obsequious Congressional hearings that featuring David Petaeus, Ambassador Ryan Clark Crocker and the Presidential candidates. The writers made the case that Barack Obama will be the next president precisely because he was against Iraq from the beginning. The sketch plainly shows what reasonable people now believe--we should have known better and we now need a President that did know better.

Yet there are still plenty of people out there who, to this day, who still do not know better. Columnist William Rivers Pitt wrote a column recently about the liars in the administration. He received this response from a reader, "Your silly column amazed me. Of course none of the people you mention were liars regarding Iraq's WMD. Everyone thought Saddam had WMD, including Saddam's own generals. There were no lies."

Pitt listed dozens of lies in response. "Simply stated," Dick Cheney said in a speech to VFW National Convention in August of 2002, "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." "There is already a mountain of evidence that Saddam Hussein is gathering weapons for the purpose of using them," Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said at a briefing in September of 2002. Speaking to the UN General Assembly a few days later the President told them, "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." In a radio address in the following month, Bush said, "Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have." These are but a few of the seventy-five lies Pitt cites.

Obviously Iraqi statehood is not going to happen, but the moral debt we owe the people of that country means we must act as if their people are our own. But in light of these lies, lies that led to an illegal invasion and a ruthless occupation that cost the lives of uncounted scores of their citizens, we must marry the fate of their democracy to the fate of ours. Colin Powell brought himself much shame for participating in this butchery, many of the administration's lies came out of his mouth, but it is his so-called pottery barn rule must guide the fate of the future integrity of the United States. We broke it; we bought it and we can not disown responsibility for our representatives' actions, especially the actions of rogue representatives, because it is our duty as citizens to make sure those unfit for power never wield it.

We can do as Bush asks and let history be his judge. Maybe he'll be foolish enough to test his self-proclaimed immunity to these war crimes by traveling abroad. The heinous Military Commissions Act works against him in other countries, where it can be cited as proof that there's no chance he will be charged in the United States, therefore must face justice abroad.

But Bush and his fellow war criminals' fate remains beside the point. Until there is peace, burgeoning democracy and prosperity in Iraq that equals our own, we will have a national morality deficit that we must address. While we must not allow future Presidents and Congresses to use that debt as an excuse to sustain the occupation, or even a military presence in Iraq, we must takes measures as drastic as necessary to never allow ourselves to forget what was done and to insure that it never happens again. No matter how much of our future wealth it costs, we must find means outside those of the military-industrial complex to rebuild and strongly fortify this country we allowed our leaders to so horrifically disfigure.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Spy Program in US

What was I saying about fascism again? This just in from the Washington Post to remind us...
The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities -- such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps.

Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. The department has previously said the program will not intercept communications.
Uh huh.

I don't have access to anything as sophisticated as Kvatch's iNews 9000 Turbo Wi-Fi Headline Translator, but I'll venture a guess that "once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved" means something like "We've got John Yoo working on the memo as I speak." In BushWorld, 'resolved' means eliminated. The administration has already made attempts to eliminate privacy and civil rights since the beginning of the illegal warrantless wiretap program. Bush's plenary powers as a wartime president allow him a line item veto on the constitution according to Yoo, Gonzalez, Mukasey and the rest of the Department of Injustice.

Did anybody see the 1998 movie Enemy of the State, with Will Smith and Gene Hackman?

Uh huh.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

The Definition of Fascism

Me and my big mouth (er, .., keyboard.) Having promised to do a series on fascism in America I find myself with an embarrassment of riches in terms of links to pursue and connections to research. Make no mistake, the idea of a movement to exert fascistic influence over American society is not a rhetorical device, nor by any means hyperbolic. Naomi Wolf points out that it's not hyperbole if one compares present day America to Italy in the 1920s or Germany in the 1930s, when fascists were taking over those countries. And the ten-point blueprint that she lays out for repressive regimes certainly has a chilling similarity to the actions of the Bush regime. Just to remind you, here's Naomi's list:
  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create a prison system outside the rule of law
  3. Develop an unregulated paramilitary
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens' groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. "Dissent = Treason"
  10. Suspend the Rule of Law
There's a longer list with 14 points, the work of Laurence Britt in this article at Secular If that isn't convincing enough POAC (The anti-PNAC website) has posted numerous links to examples of where the U.S.A. conforms to Britt's model HERE. I daresay that some of these trends predate the Bush administration by decades. As we shall see. Without resorting to a list of methods or characteristics the most succinct definition of fascism I could come up with comes from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.:
"While communism is the control of business by government,
fascism is the control of government by business."
-- Robert F. Kennedy Jr. - Fascist America --
Anyone familiar with the structure of American society would be hard pressed to deny that the country doesn't fit that definition. There are 30,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, outnumbering legislators nearly 60 to one. Large campaign contributors expect a payback from whichever horse (did I say horse? I meant whores) they back in an election, and they often back both candidates just in case. The government is adamantly trying to obtain retroactive immunity for corporations who knowingly committed crimes (on behalf of the government, or course. And when an election comes, you get to vote for one of two corporate-friendly candidates from one of two corporate-friendly parties, and the vote may be flipped by a machine running secret software that is the private property of a corporation.

One other thing you may have heard of. A recent war was infamously started for the apparent benefit of no-one other than the military industrial complex, at great cost to the nation as a whole. The US military costs the country more than the combined military budgets of the entire rest of the world, but still the government feels it has to hire contractors (all with connections to administration higher-ups) to get the job done. That is simply astonishing and can only be explained one way.

When you look at how these contract workers get paid you see what the job is, and that it will never get done under the current way of doing things. Typically a mercenary will get $500.00 a day for his services, but his employer charges $800. The thing is, he doesn't charge the government $800, he charges another contractor, who in turn charges the government $1,000. That's the way it works. So obviously the job they're trying to get done is to steal as much from the taxpayer as possible, and the Great War on Turr is merely a canard, a means of keeping the gravy train rolling. And one of the things about gravy trains is that they tend to gain a lot of momentum, especially since there are a lot of people with a vested interest in greasing the wheels and polishing the tracks they run on. Don't believe me? Google the term 'sailboat fuel.'
War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.
-- George Orwell --
The aim of Bu$hCo's brand of fascism is not just to provide profits to corporate cronies, but also to put them out of reach of all responsibility for their actions. The heinous acts committed without consequence by Blackwater/KBR mercenaries in Iraq are a case in point. The government has literally become a partner in crime with the multinationals. And then there's this from a recent New York Times:
In a major shift of policy, the Justice Department, once known for taking down giant corporations, including the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, has put off prosecuting more than 50 companies suspected of wrongdoing over the last three years.

Instead, many companies, from boutique outfits to immense corporations like American Express, have avoided the cost and stigma of defending themselves against criminal charges with a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, which allows the government to collect fines and appoint an outside monitor to impose internal reforms without going through a trial. In many cases, the name of the monitor and the details of the agreement are kept secret.
The reaction of the corporations to this new trend are woefully predictable.
Some lawyers suggest that companies may be willing to take more risks because they know that, if they are caught, the chances of getting a deferred prosecution are good. “Some companies may bear the risk” of legally questionable business practices if they believe they can cut a deal to defer their prosecution indefinitely, Mr. Khanna said.

Legal experts say the tactic may have sent the wrong signal to corporations — the promise, in effect, of a get-out-of-jail-free card.
I would be lying to you if I said that this was something new in American history. Watch this clip:
Chomsky on Corporate Propaganda
Here's the part I'd like to point out:
As (James Madison) put it, 'the primary responsibility of government is to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.'
One of the things that emerged from the Congress of the Confederation was the Electoral College, the subject of a recent post by law professor Jonathan Turley.
While the Framers were great believers in the natural rights of the common man, they actually had little faith in the judgment of the common man. Indeed, most of the Framers were unflinching, unrepentant elitists. They wanted a representative democracy to create a buffer of educated men between citizens and their government. It was not until 1913 that the country finally amended the Constitution to allow for direct election of senators (who were originally elected by state legislatures).

Throughout U.S. history, the Electoral College has worked as designed: to place elections in the hands of an elite. Past controversies involved the same personal wheeling and dealing that we’re seeing today with superdelegates.
We've seen Turley's views before on various matters, notably the Prosecutors' Purge scandal, and the wider implication that the prosecutors who weren't purged, as well as the one's who replaced the dismissed US Attorneys have turned the Department of Justice into a partisan playground of Republican corruption. It's a good thing at least that the cases are tried before elected and uncorruptable federal judges. Er, nope.. as Turley again points out.
This week, Michael Gableman celebrated a considerable victory: the first defeat of an incumbent judge in 40 years for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. His opponent Louis Butler was also the first African American on the Court. Yet, the $5 million race shows the steady trend toward high-priced campaigns to change the make-up of courts by legal and corporate interests.
So to recap: The laws of the country are written by bought and paid for corporate-friendly hacks, prosecuted by more partisan corporate hacks and tried in front of judges who are already pre-bribed by corporations before they even take the bench. If the outcome is in question the appeal could go all the way to the ultra-partisan corporate friendly Supreme Court.

Earlier I criticized James Madison for the error of the Electoral College. I should say that he WAS the author of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, so on the whole he redeemed himself in spades. He also wrote this gem, another definition:
The accumulation of all powers,
legislative, executive, and judiciary,
in the same hands
may justly be pronounced the very definition of a tyranny."
-- James Madison --
But don't get me started on tyranny in America. I think I have my hands full with fascism, thank you very much.

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Through German Eyes....

Two big stories out of the US this week have been in the German news. They reported extensively on both the Olympic Torch relay through San Francisco and on the American Airlines/FAA debacle. We don’t look good in either story.

The French government knew there would be protests along the Olympic Torch’s route. They weren’t disappointed. No less than three times the French protesters managed to extinguish the Torch. Each time it was re-lit from the real Olympic flame (carried separately in two shielded torches, though I strongly suspect it was some French gendarme’s Bic). Finally, overwhelmed by the protests, they canceled the remainder of the run.

Fast-forward to San Francisco. The night before, the German news was reporting that officials were considering changing the route. And we weren’t disappointed – they did, depriving both protesters of their free speech and peaceful spectators a view of the torch. A select few, reminiscent of a Bush campaign event crowd, got to see the torch go by. The rest were deprived.

German news presented this as cowardice. I can’t argue. They presented it as an attempt by the Chinese and the Olympic committee to prevent free speech. I can’t argue. They presented it as the City of San Francisco and by extension the United States being unable to control crowds or tolerate dissent. I’m sure they can control crowds. They have plenty of tear gas and rubber bullets. It’s the dissent part we can no longer tolerate as a country – dissent is unpatriotic, remember? You’re with us or against us, remember? The German news nailed that one.

The second issue was American Airline's shoddy maintenance practices and the FAA’s cozy refusal to enforce regulations. Plainly stated, the FAA looked away as airlines failed to perform adequate security checks and threatened members who reported the problem. Finally a whistle-blower went before Congress and exposed it, precipitating American Airline's actions.

Corruption was the German take, just as corrupt as the German representative who got ski lifts declared public transportation to reduce the tax the operators pay (if they’d passed the savings on to customers, I’d vote for the rep… :-) ). And again, they nailed it. Abuse of power – the threats against the FAA employee who threatened to report the problems. They nailed it again. And risking lives – again the Germans got it right.

I don’t know what was reported on these issues in the States but the German coverage was accurate, factual and fair, no artificial balance, no color reporting, just pure, damning facts. I appreciate that. Although I’m looking forward to home on Sunday, I’ll miss their reporting.

Perhaps I’ll have to read Der Spiegel off the Internet more often.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pink Floyd University: Dogs Of War

Crocker and Petraeus came to the Hill and barked at both Houses this week. It's high time that they, and their fellow pack of barking dogs in the mal-Administration, the House, the Senate and the Traditional Media should be muzzled.

Bush and his "War Council" are truly the "Dogs of War."

The use of the phrase "Dogs of War" is generally recognized to come from Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, from a speech Antony gives:

All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Chimpy's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Cheney by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

(Sorry Shakespeare fans; I couldn't resist. Hey, it still scans properly. To atone, here is a vintage offering of the whole 2 minute soliloquy by Marlon Brando.)

Since all the Pink Floyd members were schooled in Britain, I am certain they all were and are aware of the origins of the phrase, and I think a look at some snips of the lyrics justifies this thought:

Hell opened up and put on sale
Hollow laughter in marble halls
Has unleashed the dogs of war

Hell opened up. On Sale. Marble halls. Dogs of War. From Caesar's time, through Shakespeare's and ours, it's remarkable how some things about human society just don't change. When you read the lyric set at the end, after what is to come, I believe you'll come to understand why I say "everything I need to know about politics, I learned from Pink Floyd." Pink Floyd is just damn prescient, yet rooted in what they know of history. It's remarkable.


There are these two-legged dogs of war that I call out at the beginning of this post, and there are also the four-legged variety. There is one lucky dog and one tragic dog in the two videos below. WARNING: Both videos are disturbing to watch.


This is tragic for our own humanity. Look at how easily, like a video game, four humans are so dispassionately gunned down from high above and far away. And look how easily four humans dispassionately participate in gunning down that poor dog. Why?

This Illegal Occupation/War is eating our collective soul. Why? To win? Win exactly what?

And the barking war dogs Crocker and Petraeus think we're fooled by their testimony? Not a chance. Senator Joe Biden destroyed the arguments handily.

The very worst part of all this is that this mal-Admnistration is really didn't even "cry havoc." It was quickly done with whispers and in secret that they actually invoked the hell to come that would devour our sensible spirits and shock us into this insensate state of "...all pity choked with custom of fell deeds."

To end, here are the complete lyrics to "Dogs of War" and a particularly apt Youtube. Emphases in the lyrics are mine, and reflect what I think are characteristics of the "
Dogs of War Cabinet" players, and chiefly those of Bush/Cheney:

Dogs of war and men of hate
With no cause, we don't discriminate
Discovery is to be disowned
Our currency is flesh and bone
Hell opened up and put on sale
Gather 'round and haggle
For hard cash
, we will lie and deceive
Even our masters don't know the web we weave

One world, it's a battleground
One world, and we will smash it down
One world ... One world

Invisible transfers, long distance calls,
Hollow laughter in marble halls
Steps have been taken, a silent uproar
Has unleashed the dogs of war
You can't stop what has begun
Signed, sealed, they deliver oblivion
We all have a dark side, to say the least
And dealing in death is the nature of the beast

One world, it's a battleground
One world, and we will smash it down
One world ... One world

The dogs of war won't negotiate
The dogs of war don't capitulate,
They will take and you will give,
And you must die so that they may live
You can knock at any door,
But wherever you go, you know they've been there before
Well winners can lose and things can get strained
But whatever you change, you know the dogs remain

One world, it's a battleground
One world, and we will smash it down
One world ... One world

Like I said, time to muzzle those dogs.

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