Wednesday, April 27, 2011

what a day for the USA...

although it's not new news, the stats for the afghan pilot's shooting spree in kabul keeps going up. the latest i saw, it was up to 10 americans. as ABC news reports:
An Afghan Air Corps pilot, angered by an argument with nine American trainers at Kabul airport, pulled a gun on the Americans, disarmed them and methodically killed them, officials said today.

The shooter then apparently shot and killed himself.

The Afghan military said the gunman was a 20 year veteran of the Afghan Air Corps who had gotten in an argument with the American trainers during a meeting in a conference room at the Afghan Air Force headquarters.
it's well known that american military personnel can be a little cocky at times. when will they realize that not every foreigner is going down on his knees to kiss their asses? it seems a bit much to expect, even in this age of declining civility -- and dwindling american exceptionalism. just another bunch of assholes, i'm afraid.

on that note, how about the latest from the palestinians? fatah and hamas have apparently come to an agreement to reconcile, which has in turn left the white house and the terminally obnoxious netenyahu government in a tizzy.

the root tooters at reuters have this quote from one of the minions of likud in the house of barack:
"The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace. Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

"To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist," he said.
in other words, the israelis and their facilitators don't want to talk to hamas, and so make any talks contingent upon immediate and total capitulation of the palestinians to whatever demands the israelis manage to concoct in their absolute refusal to entertain the notion of negotiation -- at least, negotiations that are intended to come about to some mutually agreeable resolution to the differences dividing the parties.

the israelis have made it clear that they intend to dither and delay until a republican administration takes over in the white house, at which time it'll unilaterally declare that there can be no negotiations, since the palestinians obviously aren't serious about peace!

if it weren't for obama releasing his birth certificate, today might have had to be written off as a complete waste of time for the US. now, however, at least the president will have established to all the doubters that he is indeed a true american. and that, after all, was the biggest obstacle to putting the country back on track as a world leader...

Monday, April 25, 2011

NYtimes: big resources, small principles

who could forget editor bill keller's sneering take-down of julian assange and wikileaks a couple of months back, proving once again that the times is perfectly willing to toss sources under the bus, repudiating the messenger to kowtow to the demands of its imperial overlords, while shamelessly pretending to be a public watchdog.

today comes a hot new bundle of secret documents presented as the enterprise of the times, "The Guantánamo Files". it's only somewhere, lost in a sidebar to today's paper-leading story, that this bizarre acknowledgement of the documents' actual source appears:
These articles are based on a huge trove of secret documents leaked last year to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks and made available to The New York Times by another source on the condition of anonymity.
one had to do considerable due diligence -- of a sort the times so infrequently puts forth on its own initiative these days -- to find the acknowledgement due wikileaks, as the times peddles a fantastic storyline that manages to paint assange and bradley manning completely out of a story that depends on their courage and initiative for its very existence.

they suffer persecution and torture, in manning's case, so that the times can cavalierly present their sacrifice as its own work -- simply because some "anonymous" source has apparently engaged in some duplicity to provide documents outside the group with which wikileaks is now working to disseminate the cache of secret documents.

the times, it will be recalled, originally shared in the release of the state department documents late last year, along with the UK guardian. after a very public falling out with assange -- which reeked to the high heavens of a coordinated attempt between the state and its favored media minions to forever silence wikileaks, and anyone else who aspired to likewise expose the nauseating machinations of the corporate state.

it seems to me, at least, that the times' participation in the present set of revelations is simply at matter of proactive messaging on the times' part, in order to spin the story in a way that's most favorable in total to the state's interests. while seeming on the surface to be a tantalizing expose of the guantanamo story, it will serve primarily as a smokescreen behind which the more egregiously amoral material can be played down and written out of the narrative that will by necessity be repeated ad nauseam by participating second-string media outlets nationwide.

the times will hide behind nostrums like its "responsibility" to protect government "sources and methods," and to protect the all-important "national security" interests of the US and its subsidiary governments -- in effect giving the government opportunity to exercise prior restraint on the news copy in the paper -- while granting a token amount of plausible denialability to the times in its role as the state's preferred messenger.

as newspaper of record and bellwether for the corporate media cluster in the US, the times is rich in resources -- as befits an outfit of its stature within the pecking order -- but when it comes to independence from those it covers, and principle as it pertains to protecting and defending whistleblowers and gadflies that cross the government it so assiduously courts for privilege and access, the times stands as a midget beside courageous independent media outfits with an abundance of courage, but only a ten-thousandth of the resources.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

climate change: a scorched earth policy

new york times published a piece today on the rampaging texas wildfires:
More than 1 million acres of Texas plains and forests has gone up in smoke this month as hundreds of fires blazed through the Lone Star State. Gusting winds, statewide drought and low humidity have created tinderbox conditions that state and federal firefighters are still struggling to contain. Lacking a forecast of steady downpours to cool the scorching earth, the Texas Forest Service is expecting the fire conditions to continue wreaking havoc throughout the state.
i've always said, the deniers won't accept human culpability for climate change until rising sea levels reach their chins...

on the other hand, maybe the wake-up call will be in the form of a firestorm instead of a flood.

as we are frequently reminded, everything is bigger in texas -- including the hubris and arrogance of its pay-to-play oligarchy.

but i have a feeling this might be bigger than those texas oil billionaires.

poll follies: 1/4 of americans don't believe obama is one of us

hot off the press comes word that your friends and neighbors are seriously deluded -- without much hope for redemption. it's the same cadre, it seems worth pointing out, that gave president dubya bush about a 27 percent approval rating for about the last three years of this administration.

as for the latest testimony to the childish mind-state of the union, we turn to the CBS news/NYT poll:
A quarter of all Americans incorrectly think President Obama was not born in the United States, according to a new CBS News/ New York Times poll.
Among all Republicans, 45 percent believe he was born in another country, as do 45 percent of Tea Party supporters, the poll shows.
Since the start of Mr. Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, rumors have existed that he was born outside of the United States. The 'birther' myth has steadily persisted through Mr. Obama's presidency...
we can at least be thankful for the tender mercies of CBS news, which recognizes in black and white, in the last paragraph above, the nature of birtherism: it's a myth, rather than reality-based belief. (is it any wonder that this group is heavily weighted towards the fundamentalist and evangelical communities, which seems predisposed to believe just about any old horseshit?).

let's say it one more time: there are plenty of reasons to have lost faith in the leadership of mr. obama -- if faith is your thing -- but rejecting the man because of his skin color is a throwback to the bad old days of US apartheid, when racist drivel could be voiced openly -- and would've been by the thurmonds and wallaces of today: palin, bachmann, barbour, trump....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

that cell phone you love so much is ratting you out

people these days are very attached to their cellphones. you might say they're as integral a part of everyday life now as the communicator was to captain kirk and the gangs on the original star trek -- beam me up, scotty!

but the cellphone technology that seems so fun and enabling, that helps us organize our lives and stay in touch with our BFFs, is fast becoming a digital ball-and-chain -- albeit a very light one -- that keeps tabs on our whereabouts and rats us out to people we'd just as soon not knowing all our business.

it turns out, for example, that there's software in your iPhone that keeps tabs on your physical location -- all the time. it's collected and stored -- to what end, no one is quite sure. according to wired:
Your iPhone or 3G-equipped iPad has been secretly recording your location for the past 10 months. can confirm that fact: The screengrab above shows a map containing drop pins of everywhere yours truly has been in the past year.
Software hackers Peter Warden and Alasdair Allen discovered an unencrypted file inside Apple’s iOS 4 software, storing a long list of locations accompanied with time stamps. The file is labeled “consolidated.db.”
“Ever since iOS 4 arrived, your device has been storing a long list of locations and time stamps,” Warden and Allen wrote. “We’re not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it’s clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations.”
if you're surprised, you haven't been paying attention. there's nothing in the constitution that prohibits these companies from collecting personal data about you, from you -- as the telcos were retroactively granted immunity from prosecution for cooperating with government interception of electronic communications of phone company customers.

once the door is opened at little bit, it just gets easier and easier for the corporate state to make inroads into every nook and cranny of your personal life -- both for your "safety" and their profit, which are entwined in a seamless garment like a straitjacket.

it's left to the imagination as far as what commercial interests can do with this type of data. the entire commercial model of the internet seems to be constructed around knowing who you are, and everything about your personal habits online -- with an eye to predicting what products you can be enticed to buy through targeted advertisements.

the manifestations of this overbearing interest in including everyone into a hive of connected entities include an exciting new web startup known as "color" -- exciting mainly because of the enormous amount of startup capital it was able to garner, as it rolled out a technology that connects disparate individuals in physical proximity with one another through the realtime sharing of cellphone photos. this is the tweet morphed into a full-blown shriek! and implies an fixation on virtual togetherness that seems to transcend (in a bad way) our very humanity. it boggles my mind, but then i only have a phone that makes a very few phone calls.

while the commercial exploitation of this technology seems both innocent and nefarious at the same time, there's a parallel track of technology that is all nefarious. it's not simply a big mumma keeping constant tabs on where you are and who you're hanging with; this slice of neurotic nightmare from our technologically advanced dystopia takes a chilling leap to another level:
The Michigan State Police have started using handheld machines called 'extraction devices' to download personal information from motorists they pull over, even if they're not suspected of any crime. Naturally, the ACLU has a problem with this.
The devices, sold by a company called Cellebrite, can download text messages, photos, video, and even GPS data from most brands of cell phones. The handheld machines have various interfaces to work with different models and can even bypass security passwords and access some information.
your digital pal, the one you carry with you and serves as your virtual bridge to friends and family is also your realtime judas, ready to betray you at a moment's notice -- when the police want to delve into your personal life and you'd rather they not.

i find it interesting that its the michigan police that are leading the way into this brave and terrifying new world. michigan, which is ground zero of the betrayal of the american worker by the corporate state, seems to be a likely breeding ground for radical resentment against the system -- as well as the nurturing mother of police state repression techniques for a new age insurrection and repression.

cnet's story goes on to tell how the ACLU made an FOI request for the police's records and procedures for using this device on citizens, and was answered with a request for $500,000 in fees to procure the information -- which demonstrates rather conclusively that this information will not be made available for public scrutiny, nor will it be subject to review by the legislature. this is an example of the destruction of civil liberties by executive fiat -- and is not subject to a vote by mere citizens.

i've always been interested in gadgets, as they present novel and useful ways to do mundane tasks, but technology has sped along beyond our ability to comprehend the implications it has on our lives and our privacy. we've gladly embraced each new, cool iteration of iphones and androids without really appreciating that potential dark side embedded in those technologies.

sort of like the internet itself, these technologies have immense potential to revolutionize human communications and spread ideas as prolifically as life itself spreads in an hospitable environment -- but at the same time, this technology can be virulent as well, a pox, a disease on society, with no known antibiotic to counter its pathological effects.

that's why i am hesitant to own any device that keeps tabs on me without full disclosure in advance. knowing that that's never going to happen, you can count me out. it's just not worth it!

Obama: the biggest drag on U.S. economy

the president may have been talking about something else in his remarks:
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday said the sluggish housing market is probably the biggest drag on the U.S. economy right now.

Obama, speaking at the headquarters of the social networking giant Facebook, also said the time has past when Americans could buy a house with very low down payments.

He was responding to a question about the challenges faced by those with low and moderate income in getting home loans.
frankly, i thought he was talking about his lack of leadership in taking on the criminal banking cartels that nearly crashed the economy in 2008. no one was charged with any crimes, no one was prosecuted, and no one went to jail.

just this past week, sen. carl levin called out goldman sachs and deutsche bank for their role in the housing collapse. “The threads that run through all the chapters in the sordid story are conflicts of interest and extreme greed,” according to levin, as he charged that "Goldman Sachs executives weren’t truthful about the company’s transactions in testimony before the subcommittee at an April 2010 hearing. He said he would refer the testimony to the Justice Department for possible perjury charges...In my judgment, Goldman clearly misled their clients and they misled the Congress.” Levin said.

the housing market isn't going to heal, and the economy isn't going to come back until the guys who ran it into the ditch, lied about it and ran away with their ill-gotten gains -- only to be bailed out by the taxpayers -- are held to account and put out of commission. that's what investors are looking for, as has been pointed out time and again in such worthy sources as who wants to get caught up in a system that's still run by and for the fraudsters who ripped off the system in 2008, and continue to operate largely without adult supervision?

obama may not have been steward at the time leading to the collapse, but between hank paulson and tim geithner, there was seamless continuity in the banking system, with the too-big-to-fail institutions being not broken down and sold off, but bolstered and encouraged to get even larger, in order to more efficiently hold the entire world economy hostage. this is a system that's built on a foundation of malignancy, and the contagion ensures that no one will want to allow himself to become infected with this disease.

i call it a drag when a politician refuses to call a spade a spade. when i look at obama, i think to myself, is this the bankers at work?

Clinton says Syria must do what we say, not what we do...

according to this article from reuters, madam secretary is giving the syrians the what-for over their treatment of protesters, as well as ill-treatment of detainees:
(Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday condemned violence in Syria and said the Syrian government must stop the arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of prisoners.
it's the same-old, same-old, where you mustn't do what we do -- but heed our moral lecturing, since we've appointed ourselves as moral arbiters. (just last month, the chinese government told the US to bugger off on the sanctimoniousness, by the way.)

coincidentally, we learned just yesterday that the US government is moving pfc. bradley manning, the great american hero who's suspected in being the source of many wikileaks revelations about US haughtiness and duplicity on the world stage, being moved from one concentration camp to another.

i can't speak to the specifics of manning's new digs at the army facility at leavenworth, kansas, but the government has it in for that boy, no matter where he is ensconced. the navy brig, here in virginia, has done all it can to humiliate and torment this brave man, and now the government appears to feel that novel measures are called for.

the US military has the best minds in the psychological torture business on the payroll, drawing on sources as disparate as the old russian KGB humanitarians to the israelis who take sadistic enjoyment in tormenting their arab charges, to our own, home-grown experts, forged in the crucible at guantanamo, bagram air base and assorted CIA "black sites" in eastern europe.

manning is but one in a long line of US detainees, both alive and missing (presumed dead), that ms. clinton is obviously not thinking about as she upbraids the syrian authorities for their mistreatment of prisoners. she's no doubt having a senior moment -- or a brain fart -- not to recall that syria happens to be among the sites the US would render suspects in the "war on terror" for their assured efficiency in extracting confessions using the most effective techniques of cruelty and depravity.

madame secretary, tear down that mask of unctuous piety, and get serious about getting your own house in order, before you set out trying to remake the world in our image... what a tragedy that would be!

budget cuts we can all agree on

let's just cut through the BS. new york magazine had this tidbit picked up by the google news aggregator, which itself came from the WaPo/ABC news poll. it managed in just a couple of sentences to boil down the budgetary bollocks thus:
Even after weeks of serious debate over our serious debt crisis, a Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that cutting Medicare, Medicaid, or military spending — but especially Medicare — is still unpopular with the American public. The only measure getting majority approval? Raising taxes on people making over $250,000 a year, which received 72 percent support and is part of President Obama's debt-reduction 'framework.'
say this for the american public: even while the corporate media pitches the notion that the tea party movement represents its hopes and aspirations, when it comes to straight-up priorities, the voters are to the left of johnny boehner, eric cantor and michelle bachmann!

who'd a thunk it?

we the public are a notoriously fickle bunch, however. wrap it with bugaboos like fags, welfare queens, mexicans and terrorists, and the right wing can convince the average american of just about anything. cutting taxes on corporations will save us from the homosexual agenda, goddamn it! when it comes to elections, the shit never fails.

considering the level of income inequality in the US is higher than at any time since the market crashed in 1929, and that tax rates on the have-mores have plummeted since the reagan administration, it would seem to make some sense that the wealthy can easily contribute more to our collective well-being through taxation. this is especially true in light of S&P rather unsettling announcement that there is a one-in-three chance that the US will lose its excellent credit rating unless it brings its fiscal house in order.

beyond that, this fascination with the military is another ripe area for action. this sucks in more than half the discretionary spending by the government -- and is probably being understated at that. the GOP -- and now obama -- undertook two wars in the past decade, and refused to pay for them. we simply put them on the tab. the "garrisoning of the planet" that writers like chalmers johnson and andrew bacevich decry, is eating us alive -- until we'll not only implode the budget, but collapse altogether, if some radical cutting isn't undertaken. this pentagon bloat is not making us safer.

the public has never understood why the government obligated itself (and by extension, the taxpayers) to bail out the banks, and yet this is one immense portion of the deficit and national debt. it exploded upon the ascension of barack obama to the presidency, but he just happened to be the ambitious, craven politician who clawed his way into the oval office -- heedless of the gathering clusterfuck he was inheriting from his republican predecessor.

since the 2008 market crash and follow-on economic depression, deficits that were merely record-breaking under dubya bush suddenly went stratospheric -- and show no sign of coming down to earth any time soon. but this is simply a function of the government putting all the toxic assets of the banksters on its books, and forcing the taxpayer to make good on the debts by -- get ready for it -- paying the banksters for loaning us this money, at interest, that came from bailing them out!

the public, in the poll above, speaks very rationally except they don't yet comprehend the enormity of the scam that's been run against them. this has put the public's interest into a collision course with the insatiable appetite of the banksters. and the banksters will not be satisfied until they have the grand prize: your social security money!

it's the responsibility of voters to cut off the bankers before they can make good on their plans. there is no solution short of outright revolution, if the banksters using their financial stranglehold over politicians to run this game toward the conclusion they're gaming for.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

what america needs: more cheap theatrics

if you didn't think politics in the US could get any worse, donald trump is beginning to be treated as a serious candidate for the presidency in the national press. granted, it's the murdoch media, but the WSJ is the highest-circulation daily in the country, so when you have their beneficium, it's worth something -- even to a shameless, preposterous hack like the donald.

"Donald's as serious as a heart attack" about running, the journal quotes Tony Fabrizio, a top GOP pollster, as saying.

trump, for his part, is eating up the attention like a hog rooting out truffles. as befits a megalomaniac, the donald stands in awe of his own magnificence: on NBC's today show, he declared, "I think I am presidential."

we all know, of course, that to the megalomaniac, thinking makes it so -- especially if one has the money and is a reality TV star. trump seems to relish the attention, as well as the opportunity to express his own admiration of himself. from the journal piece:
In an interview, Mr. Trump said people are finally realizing he's serious. "Originally they said, 'Oh, Trump is just having a good time'," he said. "Then they were saying, 'Well, this is getting interesting.' Then as of today they are really taking it seriously...I'm not playing games. I am totally serious."
and that, i submit, is what makes the trump phenomenon so frightening, in a way. not that the man has the remotest chance of winning the presidency. no matter how far the state of political discourse has fallen, and how monstrous and contrived the contemporary political campaign has become, the oligarchs will anoint  candidates who function as feckless drones who pitch the corporate line without a hint of irony. 

while trump is too colorful and flamboyant to actually be a major-party candidate, he shows how the marketplace for "candidates" has morphed since 2008. from the embrace of hapless sarah palin by those unwashed masses yearning to be led by someone as ordinary as themselves, popular taste has leaped to the preposterous TV huckster who's both amusing and depraved when he declares, "you're fired!" to some unlucky schmuck.

the US is an empire rotting at the core, and at it's heart the malfunction that's killing the republic is the triumph of spectacle over substance. politics has become theater, a form of outrageous entertainment. elections are becoming more akin to talent shows, or a youtube video that goes viral, and popularity -- having replaced seriousness -- is measured by clicks instead of the ballot (which is a different business altogether -- and nothing but business).

we've cheapened and coarsened the discourse, until now this is what passes for political analysis: "'There's just something about him that is intriguing people, and I think it's that he's saying things that other people just think,' said Robert Haus, an Iowa GOP campaign operative."

correction: it's not what people think at all. it has nothing to do with thinking. and that's the whole point.

Monday, April 18, 2011

debt load, or load of shit

from the WSJ, the one, the true repository of murdochism -- which sounds a lot like masochism and feels even more like it, if you don't repose under the umbrella of corporatism:

A blunt warning Monday from a credit rating firm about the U.S. government's mounting debt pushed stock markets lower and intensified political divisions in Washington about how best to tackle growing deficits.
funny how these rating agencies work, just looking back at the implosion of the housing bubble and near-fatal collapse of the big wall street banks: these rating agencies were clueless. the mortgage based securities that were rated AAA, investment grade when they were unloaded on pension funds and foreigners were pure, unadulterated bullshit, and the guys who were flooding the market with this garbage were doing god's work... and the rating firms simply collected their fees and pretended all was just groovy.

so someone please explain to me why these frauds should be take so seriously today?

of course, the US' financial house is seriously out of order, but far be it from these clowns to propose some bitter medicine for the wall street crowd to choke down -- in the spirit of shared sacrifice, of course...

when it comes to any of those nasty, unpalatable cuts, let's not take it out of the hide of the too-big-to-fail, military-industrial, tax-loophole and bloated government-subsidies interests... it might spook the markets if the big wheels have to curtail their taste for extravagant lifestyles, and wreckless, no-fault investing strategies.

indeed, this will be made out in washington as a clarion call to -- what else -- give the markets your social security money! what could be easier than stabbing working people in the back, to make good on the worthless promises made by the fabulously wealthy.

donald trump comes to mind.

since the street and all the big-money insiders are the ones who created this whopping sack of financial shit, let's not do the heavy lifting for them this time. what do you say?

it's a load that you affluent motherfuckers should take a turn with -- at last. they say that the cream rises to the top, so why not the bullshit too?

and we can let mr. everyman, barack obama, with his paltry $1.7 million take-home in 2010, take the first turn at hoisting the turkey he's done so much to plump up in the past two years...

150 years later and we're still fighting over the civil war

a lot of ink has been spilled the last week or so, marking the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the american civil war. you might think that the issues that brought the nation into open conflict had been decided decisively in 1865, but far from a resolution, it seems like many of us are ready to take up arms again over the same arguments.

this was brought to mind not only by the emergence of the "tea party" and the boomlet of racist hysteria that accompanied the election of barack obama as president in 2008, but by an analysis piece from today's christian science monitor that the country is still arguing about how to teach about the conflict that ripped the nation apart.

bringing it on home, the monitor's piece explains,

Recent polling suggests that Americans remain divided in their views of issues tied to the Civil War. The very idea of designating a Confederate History Month, for instance, which Gov. McDonnell’s two Democratic predecessors declined to do, split those surveyed. Just more than half of U.S. adults said they oppose such a remembrance, according to the poll by Harris Interactive.
Meanwhile, 54 percent of respondents said they believe the South was mainly fighting to preserve slavery, compared with 46 percent who believe the South was mainly fighting for states’ rights.
gov. mcdonnell is virginia's bob mcdonnell, of course, who proclaimed a "confederate history month" in a gesture of solidarity with white racists -- the gun-toting, bible-thumping right-wingers who bristle at the notion of black history month. it's the same chord that ronald reagan struck when he launched his presidential campaign in 1980, as paul krugman recalled:
When he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, the town where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and declared that “I believe in states’ rights,” he didn’t mean to signal support for white racists. It was all just an innocent mistake.
in the mainstream press, like the monitor, since there is an unspoken assumption that the public discourse is confined to mainstream, non-toxic sentiments, we as readers are continually reassured that no one actually harbors deep-seated hatred and resentments, and that these same sentiments are what drives public policy in the areas it touches. so we'll never come face to face with the ugly truth: the reason we're undecided about how to teach about the civil war is because on many fronts it's still being fought.

academics who judge the popular mood by analyzing primary school textbooks, or studying the results of public opinion polls are not in especially fertile territory when it comes copping a feel of what's going on in the minds of poorly educated and culturally insulated reactionaries -- those too far down the financial ladder to soak in the moderating influences of consumer culture.

When asked whether current teaching on the war reveals regional biases, most history educators interviewed said that if there are differences, they are far more rare than in the past, and less pronounced.
“I have no doubt you’re going to find pockets [of the South] where ... this ‘Lost Cause’ view is present [in the classroom], but I’ll tell you, I think it’s much too easy to draw overly simplistic regional distinctions,” said Kevin M. Levin, the history department chairman at the private St. Anne’s-Belfield School, in Charlottesville, Va., who has led workshops to help teachers with the subject. “I don’t think you can draw the same regional distinctions that were drawn a few decades ago.”
if that's what this expert here in virginia, in mr. jefferson's old stomping grounds, no less, then he hasn't been paying attention. it was here in the old dominion where a textbook was yanked from the elementary school curriculum for positing historical fictions as the one where the coloreds fought on the confederate side to preserve slavery and good ol' dixie.

certainly it can't be that bad, can it?
“I definitely have sat in on a classroom or two that maybe shocked me with an old school, Old South version of the Civil War or the causes,” said Donald Stewart, the project director for a grant in South Carolina under the federal Teaching American History program.
But he said that, in his experience, this is the rare exception.
but is it so exceptional, in light of virginia's textbook debacle, or the even more egregious ideological falsification of history undertaking by the schoolbook commissars in texas? the monitor even singles out the lone star state as a particularly stubborn when it comes to an honest history about the civil war era -- they even put jeff davis' speeches on a par with abe lincoln's. come on. who remembers anything jeff davis had to say -- except maybe "oh, shit" when richmond was about to fall?

to say, well, that's only texas -- as the monitor seems to do -- is to miss a particularly salient point: the texas school system is so large that it has a profound effect on what publishers put out on the market. as with everything else in the fringe culture of the lunatic right, we have a well-organized, well-financed movement that seems to drive the discussion on its terms by default, since no one really takes their machinations seriously until an issue has been decided on their terms.

this wouldn't be a problem, of course, if it was only me who had a problem with the outsized influence of the tea party and its extended family of deranged and dangerous christian corporate foot soldiers. about two-thirds of us don't really have time for the nonsense that the fringe is ramming down our collective throats.

partly, it's the nonsense like what media like the monitor feed us, the reassuring-but-radioactive mother's milk of conventional wisdom -- to the effect that things are just about where they should be: not too far left, and not too far right. don't worry if the fanatics firebomb your child's school for teaching socialist ideology. they're all really nice people, once you get to know them...

more pernicious, however, is the impulse to keep one's head down and try to block out the negative. too much cognitive dissonance versus more prozac, as we struggle to make ends meet against ever more formidable odds. we tend to minimize the static constantly emitted by the blowhard transmitters like donald trump or sarah palin -- oh god, just make them stop! of course, we simply tune them out -- which doesn't mean they go away.

the only answer to the question of why we're still fighting over the civil war is that people like you and i won't simply say enough, and put a stop to it. as in, "you lost, get over it." we're the victims of our own fairness and decency. we've allowed people whose ideas are repulsive to have a hearing, but we never ask them to finish their stemwinding filibustering an opening statement. if we'd just hand 'em a sock and ask them to please stuff it, we'd all be in a better place.

if you care to find out how much of a better place, check this site out to see how far we've come since we kicked old jeff davis to the curb:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

jamfest nationals 2011

hey, what else is there to do on a sunday afternoon except go down to the convention center and watch the cheerleader competition? shoot, free entertainment in this day and age is hard to come by, and to be part of the action this weekend, all a person had to do is show up.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

did boob woodward really say google killed newspapers?

you know bob woodward. i know bob woodward. we all know bob woodward, scrivener to the washington elites. he who's book on the war-making administration of dubya bush produced lots of hot headlines, as the author ushered us into the councils of power, at how vain, paranoid and otherwise very ordinary people in extraordinary positions cavalierly made decisions that resulted in crimes against humanity and crimes against peace -- and yet all went home feted and celebrated on front pages and the evening news.

bob woodward was once an aspiring young journalist who broke one of the biggest stories of his times during the watergate era. many other young people were inspired by the great stories of those times to pursue careers in journalism -- including even this writer.

they were exciting times, times when beat reporters were elevated to the role of guardians of the republic against the predations of the powerful. for guys like woodward, it was a hell of a ride.

for the rest, it was a ticket to a lifestyle that gradually consumed the young idealists and converted them into cheerleaders for corporate interests. it was in full swing by the time of the reagan administration, and has continued to build momentum ever since -- until today it's turned reporters into pitchmen for the political interests they supposedly cover, in exchange for access and exclusives.

bob woodward was quoted as saying that google killed newspapers, but the fact is that the publishers and the corporations at whose behest they run newspapers are what killed the news business (i'd included TV news into the analysis). news as a profit center just doesn't make bank. this is what has diminished coverage into a desperate race for circulation, ratings and clicks. there's no genuine concern for informing the public, which takes capital outlays that drive down margins.

it's stringers and bloggers who represent the future of the news business, because they work cheap. a few marquee names like woodward have enough celebrity appeal in their own right to obtain access on the one hand, and attract an audience on the other, that make their type of journalism salable. otherwise, serious coverage requires serious budgets to gain any traction, and that kind of support isn't forthcoming from publishers, who are essentially just as greedy as any other corporate executive whose bonus is contingent on the next quarterly results.

if anything, google has given some of these newspapers a much-needed boost in visibility, where they'd have sunk into oblivion in the web-centric world today. i see newspapers like the guardian make a fairly deep impression on the US market by embracing the new medium instead of blaming it. unlike some of the also-rans in that market -- including the new york times, LA times and the post -- you can just feel the unease of the publishers of these other properties, as they watch circulation and revenue sink, and address their declines with more half-hearted and desperate gambits.

it was an eye-opening revelation in salon this past week, when they reported that the post derives the lion's share of its profits from what used to be called correspondence schools, but which have evolved in the internet age into rackets that saddle students with billions of dollars worth of federally backed student loans. if you know anyone who's been sucked into one of these joints, you know what the scam is: lots of promises up front about opportunities and jobs, a piece-of-shit curriculum that lands graduates with no prospects but a lifetime of inescapable debts.

i watched over the years as my former newspaper fell apart -- which it's still doing, like a muffin that ends up in your lap, instead of your mouth. it's still publishing, though half-staffed and filled with half-assed, syndicated copy to fill the space around the ads. the dirty story about newspapers is not that they're necessarily doing so horribly, it's simply that they don't generate the kinds of profits that investors are looking for. even with ad linage is reasonably strong, the greed of publishers is stronger, leading to yet another corner being cut in the interest of profits.

i pity the generation of reporters who came along in woodward's footprints, who upon being laid off from their reporting and editing jobs have had to find new homes in the corporate labyrinth. fortunately for them, their skills are easily transferred to the world of public relations, where they can channel a career in trying to wheedle a scoop or a quote from a flack into becoming flacks themselves. it seems like an excellent way to prepare for a new career -- a much better ROI than one of the post's correspondence schools!

sorry, bob, but google didn't kill newspapers. newspapers killed newspapers. so many were just a vanity press for rich guys who wanted to run their towns, or feel like they had a lot of ass in the community, and eventually became cash cows in spite of the obvious stink of being in league with corporate and political power. when buying politicians outright became even more profitable than running editorials, what self-respecting plutocrat was content with operating the levers of power in such a public venue?

newspapers killed newspapers, and they aren't coming back, but the need for honest reporting about what the elites are doing is needed now more than ever. it's unfortunate that even with the internet, there's no viable model for sustaining the kind of operation that does what we rely on newspapers to do. there are all manner of sites and blogs and whatnot, but these are not the answer. as of yet, i don't know what the answer is...

queen lizard palin slithers into Wisconsin

sarah palin, who parlayed a desperation move by john mccain's presidential campaign into a full-time gig as shill for the billionares cabal, took her roadshow to wisconsin this weekend -- standing four-square with political hit-man scott walker in his standoff against working people.

palin sure is enjoying the million-dollar paydays she started collection, once she ditched the governor gig in alaska. mouthing the right-wing moronitudes that so excite her pea-brained, born-again, gun-brandishing lugnut followers. jesus good, unions bad -- that kind of thing. she's on a mission, you know: a mission from gawd.  here's the gassy gossip from the AP:
 MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — Sarah Palin told a rally on Saturday that Wisconsin's governor is doing the right thing by demanding more concessions from public employees' unions.
Braving snow showers and a frigid wind outside the state Capitol building, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate told tea partyers she's glad to stand with Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Hundreds of labor supporters surrounded the rally, trying to drown Palin out with chants of 'Hey-hey, ho-ho, Scott Walker has got to go!' and 'Recall Walker!'
'Hey, folks! He's trying to save your jobs and your pensions!' Palin yelled into the microphone. 'Your governor did the right thing and you won! Your beautiful state won! And people still have their jobs!'
this is the populist whose shtick is vilifying workers and workers' rights, paramount of which is collective bargaining. typical of the GOP form of populism, however, their leaders simply affect the mannerisms and rhetoric of hard-working people, while their paychecks dwarf those of the poor, misguided twits who line up to bask in reflected glory.

sarah palin is dignified like a pig in shit is dignified. she wallows in shit, she revels in it, she boasts about how great it is -- and laughs all the way to the bank. she even tried to trademark her name, sarah palin, because the dog-and-pony show she puts on is such a big money-maker for her grubby, dumb ass.

sarah palin, straight-taking, down-to-earth, bean-counting bimbo. greasy, truck-stop mama who's found a sugar-daddy in rupert murdoch and roger ailes -- two guys who made her what she is today. without them, she might still be in alaska, actually trying to earn her keep, instead of reading murdoch's script or touring behind his ghost-written books for rubes.

it's too bad america gets its news from such pathetic outfits as the asphyxiated press, which strives to create an illusion of balance and fairness in its coverage, such as the following:

Walker, a Republican, signed a bill into law last month that calls for almost all public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health care coverage, changes that amount to an average 8 percent pay cut. The plan also strips them of their right to collectively bargain on anything except wages.
Walker has said the law will help balance a $3.6 billion hole in the state budget and give local governments the flexibility they need to absorb deep cuts in state aid. Democrats, though, think Walker wants to weaken unions, one of their strongest constituencies.
this is "factual" in a most misleading fashion. if you were a nitwit steadily nursed on the standard palin pabulum, these greedy state workers are stubbornly refusing to do their part to bring sanity and balance to the state budget -- that it's only cooler heads like scott walker and sarah palin who represent fiscal sanity and fair play.

obviously a crock, when walker's budget only went out of balance because of his largess in rewarding the wealthy with tax breaks, which he will balance by busting the state employees' union -- thereby weakening one of the few surviving sources of funding for the political opposition -- both at home and nationally.

this is where the plutocrats depend on hired guns like palin, magicians who wield some kind of supernatural power over desperate working stiffs, who've been convinced that immigrants and queers are taking away what remains of the privilege of being white in america.

i grew up watching mickey mouse and captain kangaroo, and i still remember flyers for klan rallies posted on stop signs in my neighborhood. in other words, i'm old enough to know that apartheid america isn't just a distant memory. it's clear enough to anyone who's traversed the decades since the 1960s that racism has remained a potent political and social force in the US -- and that the success and power of palin and her ilk is tied to the yearning to enjoy white superiority in the face of relentless, unstoppable demographic change.

the wealthy and powerful have enabled characters like walker and palin to stage sideshows like this in the political carnival that they run out of DC. little by little, they chip away at the social compact that was set in place during the first great depression, while using this second one to attempt to repeal it. it's fascinating is a pathological way, as now communications technologies and mass media manipulation have reached a point where almost any twisted, antithetical point of view can be hammered away at until people are much obliged to piss in their own bathwater.

this is sarah palin's role on the american scene, circa 2011.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Arizona passes "birther" rectal flare

what a shock! the racist GOP in arizona has added to its ignominious record of offensive and pointless legislation a new "birther" bill aimed squarely at barbar obama -- and yet this cabal of cowardly bastards doesn't even have the balls to admit it!

among the many flaws of the tea-bag maggots and their quisling enablers in the political establishment, there is one trespass against common sense and decency that surpasses all others: they refuse to openly acknowledge their own deep-seated beliefs -- diving into deep and convoluted explanations about how they only seem to be racists and bigots, and are in reality big-hearted and open-minded.

from the squadron of the squalid and horde of whore-mongers, courtesy of the BBC:
"The Arizona legislature has passed a bill requiring presidential candidates to submit birth certificates in order to get on the state's election ballot.
Republican Governor Jan Brewer can opt whether to sign the bill into law.
A lingering 'birther' conspiracy theory asserts US President Barack Obama was not born in the US and is thus ineligible to hold the office.
The bill's Republican backers insist it is not aimed at Mr Obama. Arizona is the first to state to pass such a law.
The US constitution requires the president be a 'natural born citizen', a clause widely interpreted to mean born in the US or in some cases to US citizens abroad.
Mr Obama has released a birth certificate showing he was born in the US state of Hawaii, where officials vouch for its authenticity.
But the 'birthers' claim Mr Obama was born in Kenya, his father's place of birth, or perhaps in Indonesia, where he spent several years as a child."
despite their protestations -- or perhaps because of them -- the obvious target of the birthers and of this bill is obama, since never before has a person of his complexion won election to said office, nor has the nationality of said winners ever been called into question -- until now.

i might at this point refer to a quote mr. obama made about his GOP republican negotiating partners in a different context: do they think we're stupid?

no one in 1961 could have realistically foreseen the election of this little baby, born in a honolulu hospital, to the US presidency. hence, no one had any motive to manipulate or doctor the official record to obscure or obfuscate events that took place at the time. to suggest otherwise is to demonstrate a loss of contact with what we loosely refer to as "reality."

if you have a problem with a black man as president, the most efficient way of dealing with it is to just get over it. obama's presidency is a fact, whatever you think of it or the man, he's there and he'll always be remenbered as the 44th president of the US.

that the "birther" cause has been taken up by donald trump in no way legitimizes it; indeed, it may do more to expose it for the charade that it is -- we know trump is a shameless publicity seeker, and his gambit to embrace the birthers was little more than cynical, cheap marketing.

he was, it pains one to acknowledge, quite successful at gaining the attention of the yahoo fringe of US politics -- but that is neither difficult nor commendable, as trump has proved. he's merely hooked into the mainline feeding drivel into the consciousness of reality-deniers and airhead refuse-niks of common sense.

one needn't embrace obama, or even support him, to recognize the birther line as the drivel it is. these people may feel the visceral need to delegitimize obama, but lack the intellectual hardware to do so -- or else trust others to do the heavy lifting when it comes to constructing a reality they can buy into. it's common enough to "leave the driving to us" in the US, and even more common to exchange "driving" with "thinking" to arrive at the destination where the misguided storm-troopers of arizona find themselves today.

arizona -- whether it be its festive hatred of minority immigrants or its passionate embrace of guns in the spirit of jared lee loughner -- is a frightening way station on the road to tomorrow. it's a destination of seething resentments and hatred of dark-skinned scapegoats, wherein the shriveling white power structure finds itself frantically fending off an inevitable swelling human tide from elsewhere.

the clowns in the arizona legislature are seeding the clouds of intolerance and reaction, precipitating for those who refuse to go with the flow of history a great, doomed civil insurrection -- the apocalyptic last stand of the sovereign citizens and oath keepers, as they retreat to a fantastic alamo of busted expectations.

obama has a partisan orbasm

as the 2012 presidential campaign gets underway in earnest, we finally see president obama getting that fire in the belly about something -- his job. at least for public consumption, it's no more mister obambi as the gloves come off and we are treated to a feisty barack the bomber.

thinking he was off-mike (at least, that's the storyline), mister fisticuffs himself came out swinging as he recounted his recent budget negotiations with the GOPpers:
"I said (to Republicans), 'You want to repeal health care? Go at it,' " Obama told backers in a private meeting with an open microphone.
" 'We'll have that debate. You're not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget.' "
He said he added: "You think we're stupid?"
and there it was. in one simple anecdote the prez comes out swinging like a prizefighter, and putting those nasty republicans in their place with the greatest of ease.

the more likely story is that he handed johnny boner the KY jelly as he bent over, inviting the entire freshman class of tea-party house members to join in a line. when it comes to negotiating with his political opponents, no one seems to do it with quite the same gracefulness and elan as this simpering, suck-ass appeaser.

i don't think obama is stupid -- not for a minute. but i don't know about the "we" he refers to: the millions of people who supported obama in 2008 and found him to be a perfectly compliant, two-faced sellout to the  owners of the US. they were pretty damn dumb to be taken in by this smooth-talking corporate pitchman, who from day one in the oval office has shown perfect fealty to the ruling class.

if he now wants to fire partisan zingers at his political "opponents" for the benefit of the TV cameras, we're pretty much used to watching him fold in supine, post-partisan acquiescence once he's behind closed doors and the real deals are going down.

it's perfectly obvious, after almost two years of this act, what to expect from barry butt-munch. he's a fighter, all right, but only when it's his own ass is on the line. get used to seeing him run flat-out against the GOP for the sake of the office. just don't expect anything resembling enthusiasm or commitment when it comes to ordinary working people.

west plans new attacks on libya

having squandered untold $billions in its bombing campaign against the regime in libya, "the french" are beseeching the world community for yet more support for the "humanitarian" effort on  behalf of the rebel forces struggling against col. gadhafi's government.

after such an exhausting, blustery and overwrought sentence, one feels like sitting down for a moment to rest.

relax. take it easy... this whole business in libya is like that. it tears you down as one wends through all the hysteria and hyperbole accompanying the white race's latest crusade to save the brown-skinned, uncivilized tribes of resource-rich areas in north africa and the arab world from themselves -- for the betterment of the civilized world of corporate profits.

the gang has failed up til now to dislodge the enemy with bombs and drone-fare by hellfire missile. the reason, as they now put it forward by a missive by messers sarkozy, cameron and obama, is that they have not been explicitly authorized by the UN resolution to decapitate the current regime. in other words, "we wanna knock off gadhafi -- and we need your help!"

we now travel to the offices of the BBC in london for this update:
"The French defence minister has suggested a new UN Security Council resolution may be needed for Nato allies to achieve their goals in Libya.
Gerard Longuet was speaking after a joint letter by the US, UK and French leaders said there could be no peace while Col Muammar Gaddafi was in power.
The current UN resolution makes no mention of regime change."
if there was up until now any doubts as to the scamtastic nature of operation libya decapitation, let's put our cards on the table now, is the apparent message.

well, not to spoil the party, but who didn't see this from 5,000 miles away? their telegraphed message is about as unobtuse as the pervarications of TEPCO over its fuckushima-all-over-the-place have been in japanland.

we need a new flag to represent our side: "don't kid with me!"

the only things the least bit opaque about the libya campaign is the nature of this usurpation. in short, why are they doing this to gadhafi, and why are they doing it now?

the rebels' affinity for playing the international bankster charade shows the way, and if you said "follow the money," you are far ahead of the pack on this steeplechase, brothers and sisters... how can the current world order tolerate deviants who suggest nationalizing oil fields, or selling oil in some currency besides dollars? is there a problem, as was suggested in a report from zero hedge yesterday, that gadhafi's state is one of the few whose national bank is not tied in to the BIS -- the central bank of central banks?

humanitarian interventions are just grand as public justification for imperial aggression, but making war is not something that world powers do on the spur of the moment, or without proper forethought and preparations: what else to make of reports that the US military leased facilities five months ago for staging an invasion? the rebels with their central bank are fighting the good fight for freedom and democracy -- or else they're not. but if not, who gives a fleeing fart, so long as it puts the nation in play for the sovereign corporate states of Oceania to run a takeover gambit?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

butt-dribble from the mouths of politicos

the big enchilada himself, barky obambi, weighed in on the current budget deficit issues facing the US -- but as usual, the moral and intellectual deficits, which are probably the most dangerous for the nation and the rest of the world, are left un-addressed.

this is the supreme confidence of the ruling claque showing its ugly face to the public -- if only fleetingly. we can argue over money all we want. and it'll be a knock-down, drag-out affair, stretching out over the next 18 months or so. what we'll never get is an honest exercise in tearing down the absurd and obscene premises upon which this clusterfuck of a nation operates.

when it comes to the budget, however, there is still no shortage of hypocrisy and bullshit that we need to take a chainsaw to, if only to tear away the undergrowth that obscures the real landscape under the jungle of misinformation that animates our current "debates".

when a family doesn't have enough money to pay its bills, a couple of things are out of whack: there's the spending side, of course, but there's also the revenue side that has an equal relevance to where you find yourself at the end of the month -- with more month than money. even so, for the past 30 years the congresses of the US have been relentless in their evisceration of tax rates -- primarily on the most well-off -- while a tide of red ink just as relentlessly rises.

we find ourselves funding ever more costly, and never-ending wars and other military mis-adventures, along with fantastic payoffs to corporations in the way of subsidies and giveaways of public resources to private, profit-taking enterprises, and the political parties -- mostly driven by the business-friendly GOP -- continue to lavish yet more unaffordable tax cuts on the wealthiest.

this has become such a fixture in the national political discourse that it has become an anathema to mention the "T" word as a great stabilizer of the nation's financial house. it took barky obambam to finally broach the subject yesterday, in his presentation about righting the capsized financial ship of state:
"It's important that we look at our tax code and find a way to work together to not only simplify and make the tax system fairer but also that we use it as a tool to help us achieve our deficit targets," he said.
Republicans have charged Obama with proposing tax hikes that would hurt businesses and the economy.
"It's not appropriate for us to ask for sacrifices from everybody except for the two percent of Americans who are doing best," he continued. "We should ask everybody to participate in this effort to get our fiscal house in order.
as noted, however, the GOP stands foursquare against any financial prudence -- since the party seems to inhabit a sort of financial wonderland where bills are made but never to be paid. their most esteemed leaders, in fact, have piled debt upon debt, posed as great proponents of fiscal rectitude while sneering in a most unseemly way when anyone proposes paying for gold-plated stuff they dispense to their paymasters like an attack of diarrhea.

no one is more embarrassed by the performance of barky obambam in the office of the president as i have been. as a pliant tool of the banker class, who's stuffed his administration with wall street's finest swindlers and scam-artists, industry tools and neo-cons, he's about 180 degrees out of alignment with what a true man of the people, and a champion of the working person, would be -- if such existed. of course, no one is that naive. it doesn't hurt to have ideals, though.

and this is exactly what this president has so far lacked, in aligning himself with the plutocrats and the powerful against the interests of the millions of people who bought the hopium in 2008. having said all the right things, he had a mandate and the political backup to have taken solid whacks at the crooks and liars who stuff washington DC to the gills.

it would be double-dandy if there was still some fire in this man's belly, because asking the well-to-do, who've benefited so richly during the past 30 years, to help with some of the heavy lifting to keep government solvent -- and to keep it relevant in the lives of the people. not only is this a hard sell, however, but an impossible one. you will shortly see the blowback from the GOP against even modest proposals for shifting some of the tax burden back to the wealthy.

you'll see obambi crawling back to the podium with his tail between his legs, begging for forgiveness on this one before its over with. we are so lost, or leaders are so wobbly and weak and lacking in all conviction or fortitude. the shit they speak dribbles down their chins, and yet they keep talking like no one will notice -- and perhaps they're right.

i've yet to see a politician being punished for gutlessly reciting the fungoid bromides that brought the republic to its knees.

gov't inaction on bankster prosecutions: no "conspiracy"?

the new york times -- which is not only the "newspaper of record" in NYC and the USA, but also headquartered in the heart of the financial capital of this half of the globe -- wants us to know it has done its due diligence in uncovering the whys and wherefores of the great crony capitalist gropefest that went bust in 2008.

in the great headline piece "financial crisis with few prosecutions," the times' sleuths are less effective than your dog digging for bones in the back yard. they purport to explain a phenomenon whereby trillions were looted by the banks, and then the same banks were made whole by the federal government for the lousy investments the bankers made in the process of pulling down outrageous fees for their corrupt "services."

but instead of loading the conspirators into horsecarts and bringing them to the guillotine, the government  showed no relish in pursuing or attempting to punish the miscreants. the whole enforcement apparatus at the federal level is compromised by the revolving door between government and their corporate masters, intertwined a world wide web of deceit and exploitation that exists to separate working people from the fruits of their labors, while enriching the undeserving elites that control a system of control.

the times, on the other hand, does its best to muddy the waters here. their expert, a alumnus of the S&L prosecutions of the 1980s and now a law professor, claims that there is no systemic effort to defeat an honest investigation into the shenanigans of corporate heathens; it's just that no one was really paying attention:
“This is not some evil conspiracy of two guys sitting in a room saying we should let people create crony capitalism and steal with impunity,” said William K. Black, a professor of law at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and the federal government’s director of litigation during the savings and loan crisis. “But their policies have created an exceptional criminogenic environment. There were no criminal referrals from the regulators. No fraud working groups. No national task force. There has been no effective punishment of the elites here.”
if a regulatory and law enforcement regime exists to check the impulses of human avarice, and law enforcement is lavishly funded to ensure our safety against the predations of miscreants, and yet neither of these instruments of a government that protrudes into every nook and cranny of our existences, can that be accidental, or just an honest oversight?

please, don't make me puke. the expert above notices the lack of any concerted effort to foreclose the profitability of these financial depredations, and yet it does not in any way constitute a conspiracy when the authorities refuse to engage in rampant illegal activity that left in its wake a toll of debt and destruction on an unparalleled scale.

this is what we get, however, and it is the best we can expect under the circumstances. the article by the times does yeoman duty to preserve the image of the selfless public servant, whose only concern is for the preservation of the beloved and trusted institution. timmy geithner, obama's treasury secretary, and andrew cuomo, then-attorney general and now-governor of new york, met at the precipice of the 2008 disaster to plot a strategy going forward. as the times tells it:
Mr. Cuomo, as a Wall Street enforcer, had been questioning banks and rating agencies aggressively for more than a year about their roles in the growing debacle, and also looking into bonuses at A.I.G.
Friendly since their days in the Clinton administration, the two met in Mr. Cuomo’s office in Lower Manhattan, steps from Wall Street and the New York Fed. According to three people briefed at the time about the meeting, Mr. Geithner expressed concern about the fragility of the financial system.
His worry, according to these people, sprang from a desire to calm markets, a goal that could be complicated by a hard-charging attorney general.
you couldn't make this stuff up: two guys exulting in guilty pleasure like a couple of boy scouts with a pilfered copy of dad's playboy mag, surveying the mile upon mile of financial ruin their paymasters have left in their profligate wake, and trying to devise a plausible out for their bosses. it's a stinky and rotten system overseen by craven and self-aggrandizing pricks with an eye to the next big payday as daddy's tasty butt-muffins.

you have to hand it to these guys, as well as the government establishment in washington, for their pure, ignominious chutzpah. not only were the banks greedy on a heretofore unparalleled scale, but their partners in crime on the federal level we so accomodating (and the press so supine and supportive, too!), as to roll out the red carpet for fraud surpassingly brazen beyond comprehension.

no one with a lick of sense in 2005 or 2006 could have seen home prices, for example, climb as precipitously as they did, and fail to ask what it was that drove prices beyond any conceivable link to the underlying value of the asset. there was no sense to rising values, except the recognition of a bubble of immense proportions inflating itself to the absolute limit -- and then past it. government regulators, except that they were in thrall to the laissez fare ideology of the bush administration, could not but have seen the markets awash in frantic speculative excess of a scale that would cause a massive convulsion across the entire economy upon its inevitable collapse.

this system was setup to fail, and failed grandly when it did. it has taken an immense amount of the wealth of working people with it, as their investments and pensions have been sucked dry by the wall street finaglers and piss-pot petes of corporate america, who write checks to the astroturf dumbfucks who ride herd on the tea-party movement, as well as other clench-boweled bozos in a permanent state of asshole-physical lockdown.

the same folks who always end up holding the bag are holding a big old, stinking sack of shit this time. the government is strapped for cash, after fighting all its pointless wars of empire across the mideast and north africa, and then showering golden love lockets upon the losers of wall street -- a criminal class that continues with its campaign of pillage and rape of working people.

the losers on wall street, after they've sucked everything else out of this economy, have but one more vast reservoir of cash to deplete before they forsake all the peons of the USA for good, and carry their hoary asses full of pilfered war-bucks off to some tropical playground. having not only beat the system, but come to own it and control it like their own personal remote-controlled toy helicopter, wish only to complete one final big cash withdrawal from the fire-sale shell of this once-great nation.

the magic ATM card that gets them out of jail free will come out for one last outrageous gambit: the giant sucking sound you hear will be your social security -- to which you've paid 15 percent of your wages during your entire working life.

what else is left for them to steal? and who's going to stop them?

Monday, April 11, 2011

sarkozy and the bush syndrome

ivory coast is another one of the former colonial playgrounds of the once-mighty french empire, and after their most recent election ended in a bloody dispute between the contestants, the west decided to take sides and oust the unyielding loser, Laurent Gbagbo.

if it can be excused, this hasn't been a story i've been too keenly following. with all the upheaval in the world, not to mention the smoldering wreckage of northern japan, there's only so much capacity for mentally processing yet another chaotic rebellion and its consequent cynical nation-building by former colonial masters.

but there's something else going on here which is genuinely disconcerting -- more nauseating bullshit when one's capacity for it is already way past the max.

the thought of the europeans following in the footsteps of the immoral george "dubya" bush into military adventurism is truly disconcerting. with the various stresses on economies by the 2008 crash, as well as simmering anti-immigrant movements, we are beginning to see the renaissance of europe as a force for nationalism and belligerence rather than progress.

nowhere has this been more plainly expressed than in france, which is repudiating civilized norms in the interest of  propelling france into the league of "players" in the pathetic, small-time, bargain-basement geopolitical game of the early 21st century. it takes only a craven, little-dick, napoleonic wannabe like nicholas sarkozy to seize an opportunity to assert french military power over its former colonies -- announcing its return, strutting forth as new kid on the nation-building block.

of course, reasserting french colonial interests is only a slice of this spectacularly cynical and dumb game. perhaps the bigger slice of of this foul concoction is craven appeal to french nationalistic impulses -- false pride in the face of intractable internal problems (from the guardian):
... Sarkozy has been treading a fine line between being damned for intervening – accused of neo-colonialism and of attempting to boost his domestic ratings with battlefield successes – or damned for sitting back and doing nothing. Inaction is not Sarkozy's default position – particularly in the Ivory Coast, which is home to 15,000 French citizens.
Le Figaro has suggested Sarkozy's war adventures could indeed be a vote-winner: 'The president of the republic thinks the French experience a certain pride in seeing their country play an important role on the world scene and that this role is recognised outside its borders. It's good for morale,' the paper said."
it's good for what ails ya, if your political fortunes need a quick boost, in other words.

it's also good for what ails you to remember the first president bush, who led the grand coalition to expel saddam from kuwait, and who afterwards basked in the reverential glow of a populace who saw its vision of itself as defender of all that's good and decent and true -- only to fail to be reelected a year later.

the world is renewing itself in rapid and uncontrollable fury. these desperate moves by the likes of sarkozy, cameron and obama to assert their superiority and dominance over sundry lands are destined to be ruinous failures. nations that have had enough of the old order are yearning for a better deal that oppression and exploitation. they don't need the white man to come save them, to return with a boot on their necks.

if the nations of the west want to save someone, perhaps it's time they put the effort into saving themselves from the predations of the global banking cartel that's ruining their economies and the environment in a maniacal, suicidal pursuit of profits.

the touching innocence of the american public

with the latest partisan drama -- authorizing the federal government to continue spending money -- having ended just this past weekend in a squeaker that averted a shutdown by a cunt-hair, we armchair political handicappers are already gearing up for another, even more bruising fight coming straight down the pike.

next up will be raising the government's borrowing authority -- or raising the debt limit, as it is called. at $14 trillion and climbing relentlessly by the week, it won't be long before the government finds itself without the statutory authority to borrow any more money. if this should happen, before you know it "the full faith and credit of the US government" would devolve into an empty promise, as the treasury would begin to default on the nation's obligations to its bond-holders.

china has already cut the US off: it no longer buys treasuries. now, the biggest domestic buyer of treasuries, PIMCO, has not only stopped buying, but may begin to sell the bonds it holds. it begins to look like investors are getting the willies about US debt -- although to be honest, who can think that the country is seriously in a position to make good on its promises?

after their last tango on the budget wrapped up last week, president obambi sent a serious message to johnny boner of the GOPpers -- "send me a clean bill" on the debt ceiling, without a larding it down with a lot of partisan hoorah. to that, boner-boy replied, "blow me, mr. president." without a doubt, obambi's post-partisanship has failed to light a fire under the GOP's ass, as the party of billionaires looks to tear yet another gaping chunk out of FDR's new deal legacy.

the GOP, as usual, is under no pressure to yield, as the polls reveal the dismal state of the nation's intelligence -- or lack thereof. the great unwashed mass of citizens, worried about the price of gasoline and an $8 tub of popcorn at the movies, hasn't yet wrapped it's mind around the whole notion of default:
"According to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, only 16 percent of voters said Congress should raise the debt ceiling, while some 46 percent said they were opposed. When told that would mean the U.S. could default on its debt, 32 percent supported raising the limit. But 62 percent said they opposed lifting the cap even if it meant the Treasury would not making good on its debt payments."
it appears that joe consumer feels that if he can't pay his VISA bill, and can just switch over to the mastercard, then the feds ought to feel a little pain, too. it don't matter if we're comparing apples and oranges, because were talking about people who don't know the difference between a CDS and a CDO, and think all their problems are caused by illegal aliens (from mars, no less!).

the blow-me school of politics has met its match with president obambi -- a guy with the golden touch, who gets elected mouthing sweet-sounding platitudes that are backed up with the full faith and credit of a craven, gutless politician who only feels passionate about one thing: being reelected.

does this imply that he fights for some principles vaguely democratic? of course not. in his quest to raise $1 billion for his 2012 race, he's already papered over any differences he might have had with the big wheels on wall street. there's nothing left now but to put on a suitable show for the TV audience to get the idea that rolling over constitutes statesmanship.

i've often wondered about surveys like that NBC/WSJ poll referred to above. there's no shame in not knowing the deep intricacies of economics and finance, or the exact mechanisms by which government debt gets finagled from investors to prop up this spectacular ponzi scheme. there is something disconcerting, however, with the confidence that these yo-yos out in anywheretown, USA seem to offer an opinion on matters both great and small -- things, one can reasonably infer, they know less than a gnat's ass about.

with great precision, chris hedges recently described the great unwashed masses of the USA, those pontificators on any subject to which a robo-caller might wish to pick their emaciated and flaccid brains. we live in a society that's dumbed down to the current level of childish cluelessness flaunted with wreckless moronitude:
A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.
one would wish in vain for a more brain-undead citizenry to take up the great issues of the day, and debate them with requisite intelligence and understanding, but such is the system that we're far from it -- and the goalposts of understanding recede further each passing day.

establishing and maintainting the kind of country we wish to live in is a matter of considerable importance -- of this, even the bewildered would agree. in the interest of expediency -- something like the congressional continuing resolutions that fund ongoing government operations without the formality of passing a genuine budget -- when it comes to the great questions facing the nation, we're content just to punt. the public simply waits for politicians to do the right thing, serially throwing out one side or the other in a misguided attempt to tease out some fundamental difference between two equally corrupt, equally compromised political parties.

the drama over the debt ceiling will be another exercise in plumbing the cynicism septic tank -- with much in the way of mouldering emotional appeals to our citizen's most self-interest and bewildering incomprehension of how terminally dysfunctional the current two-party charade really is at heart, we'll go through another anguished freakshow leading up to yet another false resolution to the wrong problem.

the TV audience will get its resolution, and the investors will get their money. the national security state will remain in a flush financial state, while the billionaires will get ever more tax cuts. only social programs that -- were they not gutted -- help the swelling ranks of the less fortunate, will fall to the system's relentless budgetary ax. for 30 years, the reagan revolution has gradually been leading to this moment.

even though this drama has yet to hit its stride, the script is already written -- and it's a syrupy melodrama so devoid of suspense, no one will even bother to to tune in until the season finale.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

DEA: dancers, not dopers...

on my way to the gymnastics competition on sat., april 9 at the convention center, i was psyched to run across another dance competition -- this time put on by the DEA. naw, not that DEA. the dance educators of america. i worked my way into the hall and started working my way into good position to knock off some stills of the dancers doing their routines when some noxious biddy got into my face about disqualifying the dancers by taking photographs.

i didn't argue, even though i was pissed. i love these dance competitions. they aren't high art but i really appreciate the hard work and the heart these kids put into what they do. besides being a visual treat, it's just a hopeful sign for the future to see kids dedicated to something besides the bullshit they are bombarded with on TV.

when i got home, i even looked up the rules and the bitch had her facts wrong, just as i suspected. video and flash photography aren't allowed, but i wasn't shooting with a flash -- that's for dumb shits with a point and shoot. i'm continually amazed by people who flaunt their ignorance -- in this case about photography -- to manufacture controversy. and they're not saving the fucking kids, either. but that's their premise. if you don't want your kids to be seen, keep 'em locked in the house.

anyway, i dig the photos. i only regret i didn't get more...

'something you see in america...'

deutsche welle, reporting on the "shock that washed over the netherlands" yesterday after the mall shooting in a small town, registered the usual sentiments:
"Alphen aan den Rijn will never be the same," said one of more than 5,000 messages on an electronic condolence register opened in the town of around 72,000 inhabitants.
"Why? We are incredulous and shocked," said another. "The Netherlands lost its innocence."
 Another resident, Martin van der Ploeg, told news agency Reuters that the shooting was "something you usually see in America, not in the Netherlands."
that last one is, of course, quite similar to reported reaction to the brazil school shooting last week as well -- something that we reported here in the aftermath.

what is it about this shining city on a hill, and beacon to the world of freedom and prosperity, that has so degenerated into a free-for-all of murder and mayhem -- that now a mass murder anywhere in the world seems distinctly "american"?

it's an article of faith around these parts -- seen prominently at tea party gatherings -- that "guns save lives." there is from time to time yet another call to make carrying firearms mandatory -- on the theory that events like those in the netherlands and brazil could be prevented by pistol-packing mamas and beer-drinking, unemployed glenn beck fans.

fact is, while the US slides towards social, financial and political chaos, its #1 export continues to be its increasingly warped and pathological culture -- finding a receptive audience with all those broken and malfunction people around the globe transfixed by americans' unholy knack for rash and irrational "solutions" to whatever ails 'em.

someone who really nails it...

every now and then you run across a comment from someone on some web comment board that just nails the current situation in a few words -- and this is one from bravo!

by Paul Bogdanich
on Sun, 04/10/2011 - 00:26
You say U.S.A. R.I.P.
If you mean USA the Imperial Power then you are correct. Were it not for what we have spent since 1964 on the military the budget deficit would be about 5% of its current size. That's another analysis that is seldom if ever presented. If one tracks debt owed to the public and defense expenses they roughly track each other over the last 40 years. Anyway unless and until one decides to disolve the Empire there is no way to balance the budget which is the problem here. The choice is go big or go home and a lot of people would rather go big than give up on the idea that we dominate the World and everything in it. This would mean more wars where we behave more brashly, drop the democracy bullshit and make the conquered territories pay for what it cost to conquer and occupy them by outright stealing their resources and starving the surplus population. Kind of like what the Israelis do with the Palestinians. That's the current danger and I see no reason to believe that our current "leaders" won't go down that path. They will of course need an excuse to change the political climate and make people forget all this human rights clap trap but this population is dumb enough and bloodthirsty enough where that should not be too much of a problem.