Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Comment on Chris Hedges's "One Day We'll All Be Terrorists"

Chris Hedges has a disturbing essay on TruthDig.com surveying the US crimes against American citizen Syed Fahad Hashmi. My response directly below.

The Bush-Obama bailout of Wall Street, costing US (that's you and me), trillions proved that the United States is an Oligarchy. The coddling of health insurers further supports that conclusion.

The Bush-Obama assault on the rights of all people, including especially Citizens of the United States, is proof that the US is fast exiting its time as a democracy.

The question I return to again and again: Is Obama doing this intentionally? Some in the US are simply dogmatic true believers in the divine right of the few over the many. Others are merely craven, self-serving opportunists. My sense is that Obama is one of the latter -- one who knows he is acting against the common good, acting against the Constitution, but is determined to carry on because it serves his own vile self-interest.

Chris Hedges's essay:
One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/one_day_well_all_be_terrorists_20091228/

Posted on Dec 28, 2009

By Chris Hedges

Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.

This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements—who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism—have discovered that his fate is their fate. Courageous groups have organized protests, including vigils outside the Manhattan detention facility. They can be found at www.educatorsforcivilliberties.org or www.freefahad.com. On Martin Luther King Day, this Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. EST, protesters will hold a large vigil in front of the MCC on 150 Park Row in Lower Manhattan to call for a return of our constitutional rights. Join them if you can.

The case against Hashmi, like most of the terrorist cases launched by the Bush administration, is appallingly weak and built on flimsy circumstantial evidence. This may be the reason the state has set up parallel legal and penal codes to railroad those it charges with links to terrorism. If it were a matter of evidence, activists like Hashmi, who is accused of facilitating the delivery of socks to al-Qaida, would probably never be brought to trial.

Hashmi, who if convicted could face up to 70 years in prison, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 2½ years. Special administrative measures, known as SAMs, have been imposed by the attorney general to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. He also is denied access to the news and other reading material. Hashmi is not allowed to attend group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. He must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. He can write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper. He has no access to fresh air and must take his one hour of daily recreation in a cage. His “proclivity for violence” is cited as the reason for these measures although he has never been charged or convicted with committing an act of violence.

“My brother was an activist,” Hashmi’s brother, Faisal, told me by phone from his home in Queens. “He spoke out on Muslim issues, especially those dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His arrest and torture have nothing to do with providing ponchos and socks to al-Qaida, as has been charged, but the manipulation of the law to suppress activists and scare the Muslim American community. My brother is an example. His treatment is meant to show Muslims what will happen to them if they speak about the plight of Muslims. We have lost every single motion to preserve my brother’s humanity and remove the special administrative measures. These measures are designed solely to break the psyche of prisoners and terrorize the Muslim community. These measures exemplify the malice towards Muslims at home and the malice towards the millions of Muslims who are considered as non-humans in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The extreme sensory deprivation used on Hashmi is a form of psychological torture, far more effective in breaking and disorienting detainees. It is torture as science. In Germany, the Gestapo broke bones while its successor, the communist East German Stasi, broke souls. We are like the Stasi. We have refined the art of psychological disintegration and drag bewildered suspects into secretive courts when they no longer have the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves.

“Hashmi’s right to a fair trial has been abridged,” said Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Much of the evidence in the case has been classified under CIPA, and thus Hashmi has not been allowed to review it. The prosecution only recently turned over a significant portion of evidence to the defense. Hashmi may not communicate with the news media, either directly or through his attorneys. The conditions of his detention have impacted his mental state and ability to participate in his own defense.

“The prosecution’s case against Hashmi, an outspoken activist within the Muslim community, abridges his First Amendment rights and threatens the First Amendment rights of others,” Ratner added. “While Hashmi’s political and religious beliefs, speech and associations are constitutionally protected, the government has been given wide latitude by the court to use them as evidence of his frame of mind and, by extension, intent. The material support charges against him depend on criminalization of association. This could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of others, particularly in activist and Muslim communities.”

Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations can now become a crime. Dissidents, even those who break no laws, can be stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process. It is the legal equivalent of preemptive war. The state can detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

“Most of the evidence is classified,” Jeanne Theoharis, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College who taught Hashmi, told me, “but Hashmi is not allowed to see it. He is an American citizen. But in America you can now go to trial and all the evidence collected against you cannot be reviewed. You can spend 2½ years in solitary confinement before you are convicted of anything. There has been attention paid to extraordinary rendition, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib with this false idea that if people are tried in the United States things will be fair. But what allowed Guantánamo to happen was the devolution of the rule of law here at home, and this is not only happening to Hashmi.”

Hashmi was, like so many of those arrested during the Bush years, briefly a poster child in the “war on terror.” He was apprehended in Britain on June 6, 2006, on a U.S. warrant. His arrest was the top story on the CBS and NBC nightly news programs, which used graphics that read “Terror Trail” and “Web of Terror.” He was held for 11 months at Belmarsh Prison in London and then became the first U.S. citizen to be extradited by Britain. The year before his arrest, Hashmi, a graduate of Brooklyn College, had completed his master’s degree in international relations at London Metropolitan University. His case has no more substance than the one against the seven men arrested on suspicion of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower, a case where, even though there were five convictions after two mistrials, an FBI deputy director acknowledged that the plan was more “aspirational rather than operational.” And it mirrors the older case of the Palestinian activist Sami Al-Arian, now under house arrest in Virginia, who has been hounded by the Justice Department although he should legally have been freed. Judge Leonie Brinkema, currently handling the Al-Arian case, in early March, questioned the U.S. attorney’s actions in Al-Arian’s plea agreement saying curtly: “I think there’s something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department.”

The case against Hashmi revolves around the testimony of Junaid Babar, also an American citizen. Babar, in early 2004, stayed with Hashmi at his London apartment for two weeks. In his luggage, the government alleges, Babar had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks, which Babar later delivered to a member of al-Qaida in south Waziristan, Pakistan. It was alleged that Hashmi allowed Babar to use his cell phone to call conspirators in other terror plots.

“Hashmi grew up here, was well known here, was very outspoken, very charismatic and very political,” said Theoharis. “This is really a message being sent to American Muslims about the cost of being politically active. It is not about delivering alleged socks and ponchos and rain gear. Do you think al-Qaida can’t get socks and ponchos in Pakistan? The government is planning to introduce tapes of Hashmi’s political talks while he was at Brooklyn College at the trial. Why are we willing to let this happen? Is it because they are Muslims, and we think it will not affect us? People who care about First Amendment rights should be terrified. This is one of the crucial civil rights issues of our time. We ignore this at our own peril.”

Babar, who was arrested in 2004 and has pleaded guilty to five counts of material support for al-Qaida, also faces up to 70 years in prison. But he has agreed to serve as a government witness and has already testified for the government in terror trials in Britain and Canada. Babar will receive a reduced sentence for his services, and many speculate he will be set free after the Hashmi trial. Since there is very little evidence to link Hashmi to terrorist activity, the government will rely on Babar to prove intent. This intent will revolve around alleged conversations and statements Hashmi made in Babar’s presence. Hashmi, who was a member of the New York political group Al Muhajiroun as a student at Brooklyn College, has made provocative statements, including calling America “the biggest terrorist in the world,” but Al Muhajiroun is not defined by the government as a terrorist organization. Membership in the group is not illegal. And our complicity in acts of state terror is a historical fact.

There will be more Hashmis, and the Justice Department, planning for future detentions, set up in 2006 a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims. A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists, among them Daniel McGowan, who was charged with two arsons at logging operations in Oregon. His sentence was given “terrorism enhancements” under the Patriot Act. Amnesty International has called the Marion prison facility “inhumane.” All calls and mail—although communication customarily is off-limits to prison officials—are monitored in these two Communication Management Units. Communication among prisoners is required to be only in English. The highest-level terrorists are housed at the Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, known as Supermax, in Florence, Colo., where prisoners have almost no human interaction, physical exercise or mental stimulation, replicating the conditions for most of those held at Guantánamo. If detainees are transferred from Guantánamo to the prison in Thomson, Ill., they will find little change. They will endure Guantánamo-like conditions in colder weather.

Our descent is the familiar disease of decaying empires. The tyranny we impose on others we finally impose on ourselves. The influx of non-Muslim American activists into these facilities is another ominous development. It presages the continued dismantling of the rule of law, the widening of a system where prisoners are psychologically broken by sensory deprivation, extreme isolation and secretive kangaroo courts where suspects are sentenced on rumors and innuendo and denied the right to view the evidence against them. Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.

Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009) and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003).

Stanley Fish on Divine Vengeance!

December 29th's New York Times has Stanley Fish considering the joys of divine vengeance in film — the license we are granted to relish violence in film when the perpetrator is unqualifiedly justified because of some awful wrong done him or her. My response below.
Great topic. Let's not forget the leading advocate of divine justice is the God of Judeo-Christian religion.

Vengeance is arguably one of two Great Motives in film, the other being love. Vengeance and violence are uniformly just in war films, especially if the war involves the US. Can any of us imagine a war film showing the US as fundamentally morally awful? If the US is at war, in fact or fiction, it is taken as axiomatic that the violence is just. Today, we even get POV reality footage of 'surgical strikes' -- surgeons are engaged in violent acts, are they (!)

Much sci fi involves sublime violence — Wars or the Worlds.

In some films, the vengeance is explicitly granted divine status -- take The Crow, with Brandon Lee, who died in a _representation_ of violence.

Look at the entire oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino, who perfectly mashes the fine line between justice and absurdity. Lucy Liu's character in Kill Bill begins as a victim on a divine quest and becomes a violent beast.

I think my personal favorite is Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, which does a pretty good job (the best I can recall) of stripping away the veneer of justice. A woman horribly wronged, and an assortment of entirely unrelated men setting out to balance the scales of justice -- for money. Each of these men with his own vile violent past, including Clint Eastwood's Will Munny (hint hint), who of all the assassin's has the most terrible past.

And then there's Hamlet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Roger Cohen in Defends the Faith of The New York Times

Roger Cohen offered a weak essay lauding the wonders of America. He was inundated with criticism. He responded with a tip of the cap and further defenses. Here, my response.

Dear Mr. Cohen:

Perhaps you can answer how the Times decides when to end new comments on op-ed essays. My guess is that the Times reacts against critical trends, and it's understandable why responses to you recent essays are overwhelmingly critical.

To be blunt, you sound like a 5th grade school teacher -- in keeping with a newspaper that doesn't remotely measure up to the standards it claims to set. More like Defender of the Faith than a defender of America.

The US has military bases in how many countries? One hundred fifty? More? The nation has been at war _continuously_ for over sixty years (undeclared and arguably all unconstitutional). No Third World War? Tell that to Vietnamese, Iraqis, Iranians, Cambodians, Laotians, Chileans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, Timorese....

Racism towards Arabs (whom you neglect to mention in your quasi-mea culpa) is soaring. Members of Congress brazenly tar all Arabs, all Muslims.

Two successive administrations, including the one hailed as the most liberal in generations, have missed _no_ opportunity to attack civil liberties. Civil liberties "haltingly advanced"? Obama is halting, not advancing.

As your colleague Paul Krugman and many other moderates and liberals have noted, the US is substantively an oligarchy. The "American dream" is dying. Wealth rules, with the eager support of all three branches of government, including, again, the "most liberal" President Obama. The president has acted to advance poverty and inequality, which are growing rapidly.

Though environmental disasters are widely recognized, the government and people show, at best, blithe indifference. Perhaps on no other count can the worst of the US be seen. The Times takes part as it focuses attention on China, though the US towers in its responsibility for ecological catastrophe. The US has repeatedly fought legislation in Europe to regulate GM foods, pesticides and plastics. Some aim.

We are indeed heirs of fortitude and foresight. Obama shows NO sign of heeding this. And you do nothing for future progress by carrying on the grade school teacher's mission of indoctrination.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ten Year Old Girl Surprised by Her Daddy's Return from Iraq

Does Obama have the decency or courage to view something like this? His own daughters are 8 and 11 years old.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bill Moyers Interviews Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner

Below, my response to Bill Moyers's interview with Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner on Friday, 18 December. I'll post a link to the video when it is available.

Robert Kuttner is wrong in his assessment of Obama.

1. Obama is not so intelligent, at least not in the way that the US needs. (Obama is very smart when it comes to pleasing those in power.) As Tony Judt notes in the current New York Review of Books, the principle (perhaps only) criterion of policy evaluation is economic -- will the policy serve/make money (to put it a little too simply). Obama is squarely inside this school of 'thought'. He does not consider whether a policy is morally right or wrong. He just doesn't.

2. I believe that the largest private donor to Obama's campaign is not Goldman Sachs, but Harvard University. Granted, Harvard probably doesn't donate with the single-mindedness that Goldman does, but this does point to a largely unexamined component in the current disaster -- the role of Harvard Business School (More than Chicago, these days, the center of right-wing economics) and Harvard Law School (where Obama learned his 'obedience to authority').

The role of 'leading' universities in indoctrinating people into patterns of obedience to power cannot be overstated. This is no conspiracy theory but simply an observation of social fact.

3. In May 2008, Penn professor Adolph Reed wrote of Obama (whom he knew personally in Chicago) as a "vacuous opportunist, a good performer with an ear for how to make white liberals like him." This strikes me as right on the mark. Frankly, I think Obama is ripe for Freudian analysis. His father abandoned him when he was very young. He no doubt blamed himself, as children do. Now he is stuck in a pattern of endlessly trying to please those he perceives as superiors. In this regard, he bears a striking similarity to Bill Clinton.

4. From a vaguely scientific standpoint, the question is: What explains Obama's unbroken pattern of saying one thing to the public and doing another in private, of caving to power and wealth (if it really is caving, as opposed to Obama carrying out what was always his intended program).

5. Unlike Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner, I have almost no confidence that a social movement will rise up to force change. The US is a strange combination of the beaten down peasantry of 18th Century Eastern Europe and the violently jingoistic nationalism of Russia, China, Israel and (of course) the US itself. Dissent, especially public assembly, is — de facto — being criminalized in the US. Rights guaranteed us by the Constitution are being taken away by the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, by police forces and local policies across the country, by ever-growing and oppressive surveillance of our daily activity. We have a Supreme Court and a lower court structure that systematically rules in favor of power at the expense of The People.

The US is in very serious trouble. It really cannot be overstated. And this says nothing of equal or greater troubles on the environmental front, where Obama is also failing terribly.

My feeling is that the US is exiting its Age of Democracy. In the future, people will think of the US as a "Constitutional Democracy" in much the way we today speak of Britain being a Constitutional Monarchy. The US will be a democracy in a minimally legal sense, but it will be an oligarchy in practice and fact. Arguably, this is already the case.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our Place in the Universe

Great visualization of our place in the universe developed by the Hayden Planetarium and The American Museum of Natural History.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Recent Web Bites

"If you're so rich, how come you're so dumb." — Paul Samuelson

"The Wall Street shenanigans are much worse" than in the Great Depression. "Fiendish, financial Frankenstein monsters." — Paul Samuelson

A key problem in US politics: Fear & ignorance (commom in dictatorships) are deemed standard political tools, esp by rightwing.

Another Bicyclist Killed in New York: DJ Reverend Soul (Solange Raulston) Killed in Greenpoint, Struck by Truck http://bit.ly/6WmmyT

US talks endlessly re 'responsibility.' -> neocon/neolib newspeak for "poor, middle class & disadvantaged pick up tab for rich & big biz"

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Power concedes nothing w/o a demand. It never did & it never will. — Frederick Douglass

The US blathers about Iraq et al 'stepping up to the plate.' Will the US do so on climate or is it just more American hot air? @whitehouse

Brooklyn - School bus runs crosswalk in front of school while kids are crossing. Driver is on cellphone. [8:20 Monday morning, 14 December]

Pentagon asssumes the worst treating climate change as security threat. Conservatives assume worst on war, Why not on climate?

US says it won't sign on at Copenhagen unless there're binding rules for developing nations. Funny, US always wants voluntary for Big Biz.

On 60 Minutes, Obama said he'd know by end of 2010 if his Afghanistan plan is working.... around about Tuesday, Nov. 2nd.

Outraged Brits want Blair Prosecuted 4 War Crimes: http://bit.ly/8RMGLX Bush's poodle admits he'd have supported war knowing Iraq had no WMD

RT @NYTimeskrugman Disaster and Denial: "I actually believed that influential people could be moved by evidence." http://bit.ly/8VGFrC

AlterNet Robert Reich: How a Few Private Health Insurers Are on the Way to Controlling Health Care http://bit.ly/8fDvWU

doctorow Open Colour Standard http://tinyurl.com/y8hnlyb has wide-reaching consequences for what we wear, what we see, what we pay

haaretzonline Jewish town won't let Arab build home on his own land http://bit.ly/6F0Xxs

US response to Amanda Knox verdict = A vicious, xenophobic attack on Italian justice | Marcel Berlins http://bit.ly/7uqXiw via @GuardianUSA

World to be Protected from Knowledge of Tony Blair's War Crimes! http://bit.ly/6cYyuM Bush's Poodle Will Give Evidence in Secret.

Hopenhagen? Ha! The folks in Europe don't have a friggin' clue about Obama. (photo) http://tinyurl.com/ycdaygt

NYTimeskrugman Paul Samuelson, RIP http://bit.ly/6I8Gir

seasonothebitch "To be 'realistic' in dealing with a problem is to work only among the alternatives which the most powerful in society put forth." — Zinn

@MargaretAtwood Sobering Monsanto exposé, preview of DNA-based capitalism: http://bit.ly/61mBir /better livin thru Frankenseeds

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Haves Arm Themselves

Barack Obama's good friends at Goldman Sachs are picking up handguns to "defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank." Evidently, Michael Moore and the public whose views Moore's captures have the US-endorsed robber barons spooked.

Seriously, this extraordinary in a city in which the mayor has repeatedly railed against guns, especially handguns.

Here, the essay from Bloomberg News:
“I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

I called Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag to ask whether it’s true that Goldman partners feel they need handguns to protect themselves from the angry proletariat. He didn’t call me back. The New York Police Department has told me that “as a preliminary matter” it believes some of the bankers I inquired about do have pistol permits. The NYPD also said it will be a while before it can name names.

While we wait, Goldman has wrapped itself in the flag of Warren Buffett, with whom it will jointly donate $500 million, part of an effort to burnish its image -- and gain new Goldman clients. Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein also reversed himself after having previously called Goldman’s greed “God’s work” and apologized earlier this month for having participated in things that were “clearly wrong.”

Has it really come to this? Imagine what emotions must be billowing through the halls of Goldman Sachs to provoke the firm into an apology. Talk that Goldman bankers might have armed themselves in self-defense would sound ludicrous, were it not so apt a metaphor for the way that the most successful people on Wall Street have become a target for public rage.

Pistol Ready

Common sense tells you a handgun is probably not even all that useful. Suppose an intruder sneaks past the doorman or jumps the security fence at night. By the time you pull the pistol out of your wife’s jewelry safe, find the ammunition, and load your weapon, Fifi the Pomeranian has already been taken hostage and the gun won’t do you any good. As for carrying a loaded pistol when you venture outside, dream on. Concealed gun permits are almost impossible for ordinary citizens to obtain in New York or nearby states.

In other words, a little humility and contrition are probably the better route.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that was obvious to everyone but Goldman, a firm famous for both prescience and arrogance. In a display of both, Blankfein began to raise his personal- security threat level early in the financial crisis. He keeps a summer home near the Hamptons, where unrestricted public access would put him at risk if the angry mobs rose up and marched to the East End of Long Island.

To the Barricades

He tried to buy a house elsewhere without attracting attention as the financial crisis unfolded in 2007, a move that was foiled by the New York Post. Then, Blankfein got permission from the local authorities to install a security gate at his house two months before Bear Stearns Cos. collapsed.

This is the kind of foresight that Goldman Sachs is justly famous for. Blankfein somehow anticipated the persecution complex his fellow bankers would soon suffer. Surely, though, this man who can afford to surround himself with a private army of security guards isn’t sleeping with the key to a gun safe under his pillow. The thought is just too bizarre to be true.

So maybe other senior people at Goldman Sachs have gone out and bought guns, and they know something. But what?

Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury secretary during the bailout and a former Goldman Sachs CEO, let it slip during testimony to Congress last summer when he explained why it was so critical to bail out Goldman Sachs, and -- oh yes -- the other banks. People “were unhappy with the big discrepancies in wealth, but they at least believed in the system and in some form of market-driven capitalism. But if we had a complete meltdown, it could lead to people questioning the basis of the system.”

Torn Curtain

There you have it. The bailout was meant to keep the curtain drawn on the way the rich make money, not from the free market, but from the lack of one. Goldman Sachs blew its cover when the firm’s revenue from trading reached a record $27 billion in the first nine months of this year, and a public that was writhing in financial agony caught on that the profits earned on taxpayer capital were going to pay employee bonuses.

This slip-up let the other bailed-out banks happily hand off public blame to Goldman, which is unpopular among its peers because it always seems to win at everyone’s expense.

Plenty of Wall Streeters worry about the big discrepancies in wealth, and think the rise of a financial industry-led plutocracy is unjust. That doesn’t mean any of them plan to move into a double-wide mobile home as a show of solidarity with the little people, though.

Cool Hand Lloyd

No, talk of Goldman and guns plays right into the way Wall- Streeters like to think of themselves. Even those who were bailed out believe they are tough, macho Clint Eastwoods of the financial frontier, protecting the fistful of dollars in one hand with the Glock in the other. The last thing they want is to be so reasonably paid that the peasants have no interest in lynching them.

And if the proles really do appear brandishing pitchforks at the doors of Park Avenue and the gates of Round Hill Road, you can be sure that the Goldman guys and their families will be holed up in their safe rooms with their firearms. If nothing else, that pistol permit might go part way toward explaining why they won’t be standing outside with the rest of the crowd, broke and humiliated, saying, “Damn, I was on the wrong side of a trade with Goldman again.”

(Alice Schroeder, author of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” and a former managing director at Morgan Stanley, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Alice Schroeder at aliceschroeder@ymail.com.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Brave New America {in progress}

Paul Krugman pulls his punches. He writes in two Times pieces today, one on the op-ed page and the other on his Times blog, of the issues of unemployment, the Obama administration's failure to act and the elite's indifference to the suffering of many now that the Great Recession has officially been declared over.

Looking a year or two forward in his blog, Krugman writes,
[There] will be high unemployment leading into the 2010 elections, and corresponding Democratic losses. These losses will be worse because Obama, by pursuing a uniformly pro-banker policy without even a gesture to popular anger over the bailouts, has ceded populist energy to the right and demoralized the movement that brought him to power.
And from his Times op-ed essay,
You might think, then, that doing something about the employment situation would be a top policy priority. But now that total financial collapse has been averted, all the urgency seems to have vanished from policy discussion, replaced by a strange passivity. There’s a pervasive sense in Washington that nothing more can or should be done, that we should just wait for the economic recovery to trickle down to workers.
Not long ago, in an interview with Eliot Spitzer on Bill Maher's show, Krugman sounded far more pessimistic. "Sometimes I wake up and think I'm in a third world country." And "The American dream isn't dead, but it's dying pretty fast." And still more: "If the US was a third world country, the IMF and others would be saying, 'You have to get rid of your oligarchs.'"

Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert are the most critical — and incisive — voices on the Times op-ed page, but the Times still tones them down, I suspect.

The Shape of Things to Come

I've been reading Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood (which for some reason I invariably think of as In the Year of the Flood, perhaps following H. G. Wells's In the Day of the Comet). Atwood's vision of a possible future is sobering — rampant wonder-species spliced by Frankengeneticists, a plastic two-tiered society, packaged everything. Including synthetic meat.

Today, Gizmodo reports on Dutch scientists synthesizing pork — not yet up to lip-smacking goodness, but on the way.

Not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Journey Through Your Blogger's Mind

A rehash of recent comments from Twitter and Facebook, in no particular order or organizing schema.

The White House Bash Crash of 25 November 2009
Network Cameras Followed White House Crashers http://bit.ly/777b9I Why not crash the Prez bash? It's good TV!

Terrorists really haven't got it figured. They just need to make Terrorism into a Reality TV show and they'll have it made.
On Wall Street, Health Insurers and Money Money Money. Just how much wrong-doing can be 'justified' by profit — a question I have yet to hear any banker or insurer answer. But the impression I get is that, given enough money, ANY moral crime can be justified.
Credit, Consumption, Collapse - Environmental Collapse, Financial Collapse, Economic Collapse. Any guesses what all that adds up to?

Does any Wall Street or Health Insurance or Banking Executive ever say "We can't do that because it is just wrong."

Have Karen Ignani, AHIP, Angela Braly, WellPoint, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs, Nessa Feddis, ABA ever found something too immoral to do?

To the bankers and health insurers: Does a sufficient sum of money trump ANY moral consideration?
More to come....

Lowell Bergman Investigates the Credit House of Cards

Friday, November 13, 2009

America's Constitutional Oligarchy

Outstanding scholar of the credit crisis, Elizabeth Warren, is on NOW on PBS this evening, Friday, 13 November 2009.



Here are some comments I made on the program:

The importance of public airing of the dissenting views of Elizabeth Warren and others like her cannot be overstated.

Obama, Geithner, Bernanke, Summers and the majority of the Harvard-Chicago School of Economics have stopped just short of damn lying. They have done the same thing with the economy of the United States that Bush & Co did with the war in Iraq: "IF you knew what we do, you would agree with us, but we can't tell you." Obama's openness and transparency is that of Orwell's 1984.

Representative Marcy Kaptur and a handful of elected officials, a number of prominent economists like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, and others across the US have said what is increasingly obvious. The US is no longer a democracy, it is an oligarchy. A constitutional oligarchy. We are locked into the "two-party" system that many clearly think is constitutionally mandated. The effect of this is to render our votes irrelevant. Democratic or Republican, the government will serve the oligarchs at our expense. The housing crisis, the financial crisis, health care, endless war abroad -- on all counts, first consideration (often the only consideration) is given to the demands of the oligarchs.

In an interview with Bill Maher, both Paul Krugman and Eliot Spitzer agreed that the "American dream is dying pretty fast." Krugman noted that, if the US were a third world country or one like Russia, the IMF and others -- especially the US -- would be saying "You have to stop the oligarchs."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Paul Krugman on the Demise of "Commie" as a Term of Abuse

Paul Krugman notes that the right-wing of the US has turned from charging their liberal and progressive opponents with the being "Commies" to being "Nazis".

Of course, opponents of health care reform have regularly been calling single-payer and the public option "socialism". Hasn't had much effect. Maybe too many Americans are just too young to be able to tap into the hysteria that term once provoked. (I myself remember the vile Wyoming senator Alan Simpson leveling the charge of "comsymp" at those who dared suggest that Reagan had committed impeachable offenses in the Iran-Contra scandal.)

By contrast, the image of the Nazis as the greatest evil ever to visit Earth (and even the greatest evil that could visit Earth) is alive and well.

I believe that the charge of "Nazi!" can rightly be leveled in some circumstances — certainly not idly as some on both right and left do. Much of the rhetoric of Reagan, George W. Bush and many on the right extreme is strikingly similar to that of the Nazis. If I remember correctly, for example, former New York Mayor Rudolf Giuliani referred to the notorious Saatchi show at the Brooklyn Museum as "degenerate art".

What language would be too strong to characterize the Ann Coulters, Glenn Becks, Bill O'Reillys, Dick Armeys, and others who tar with one brush the world's entire Muslim population as terrorist. Ann Coulter called for the bombing of Muslims — all of them. The right wing of John Yoo, Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney and others has endorsed the bombing of civilians, the torture of any person on the president's say-so, and the effective conversion of the president to a monarch or dictator. What is the appropriate name for this?

Some would say that the term "Nazi" should be reserved exclusively for the members of the National Socialist Party in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. But what then of the term "neo-Nazi"? What of "fascist"?

As for the American right-wing and its casual abuse of the term: I believe the right-wing is undergoing a fully-fledged psychotic break. They are genuinely, deeply divorced from reality. As their connection to reality has become ever more tenuous, they have adopted rhetoric that is similarly divorced from reality.

They are consumed by rage, ignorant of and indifferent to fact, largely incapable of rational or critical thought, and most importantly, incapable of one of the key requirements of the Christian religion many of them formally endorse — compassion for those different from or less fortunate than themselves.

They oppose health care for 300 million in the interest of preserving billions in income for a handful of insurers.

They go ape over something as innocuous as the move of a few words on a coin (as Sarah Palin did over the move of "In God We Trust").

They oppose 1 trillion for the well-being of the American people while supporting unknown trillions for disastrous wars.

They deny climate change and oppose action on such change despite glaring evidence that action is needed.

They persist to this day in trying to foist "creationism" or "intelligent design" on students.

They rave about freedom while supporting the systematic erosion of Constitutional rights.

These are not the behaviors of rational or compassionate people. Granted, the charge of irrationality should not be made lightly, and the charge has been abused (notably by Stalin), but frankly, it is time to admit that the 20% of the US population that constitutes the right-wing hobbling the United States is simply not rational, simply not in touch with reality. That includes, sadly, some of Paul Krugman's colleagues at The New York Times, like David Brooks.

The systematic denial of fact (regarding health care, or the political health of a nation in the face of monstrous disparities in the distribution of wealth, or any of a number of other things) is best explained as an irrational delusion.

The Balance of EVIL (Pure, Not from Concentrate)!

New York City's two tabloids, The Daily News and The New York Post, both splash news of the Fort Hood mass murder across their front pages. "Evil!" the watchword. I'm struck by the American Sense of Evil, particularly that of the American Right Wing, the Arrrrwwww!

Personally, I think there is such a thing as evil. The architects of Nazi mass murder were evil. I would say those who attack a population with every reason to believe that civilians, including children, will be the principle victims are evil. (Here I have in mind the likes of Henry Kissinger, Condoleeza Rice, Benjamin Netanyahu, Dick Cheney, among others.)

So I do not object in principle to the characterization of people or their acts as evil. I just find the Right Wing Sense of Evil strange, disturbing. The 'mainstream' of American thinkers and certainly the right would strongly object to my calling Kissinger or Cheney evil, so who knows, they might say the same of me.

Let's review, beginning with Monday, November 9th's, newspapers:

Also evil, according to the right wing:
  • national healthcare, bringing an end to private health insurance;
  • moving "In God We Trust" to a less central location on American coins;
  • higher taxes of any kind (except sales taxes);
  • any who criticize the United States in any thorough-going way (as opposed to criticizing elements of the US, like liberals or taxes);
  • environmental conservation;
  • anyone who votes against the Republican Party line (witness the response to Rep. Cao's vote for the health care reform bill)
More soon.....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Civilization Collapse Disorder

Saturday, I saw the documentary Collapse, directed by Chris Smith, on the thinking of Michael Ruppert, Peak Oil and the implications for modern civilization of a systematic collapse in the oil economy of the world. Sobering.


______________________________

From the Wilderness, Michael Ruppert's website chronicling his views

Bluemark Films, makers of Collapse

Thursday, November 5, 2009

When Reporters Try to Make News

The torrent of hate speech is flooding forth after the mass-murder at Fort Hood in Texas. Never willing to pass up on a chance to foment hatred, Fox News is doing it's best to bait people, lead those it interviews, cast the events in the worst possible light.

Here is my letter to Shepard Smith after he lead the already-happy-to-lynch Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison:
Dear Mr. Smith:

After the murderous rampage at Fort Hood, you asked Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison -- rhetorically, to judge by the sound of it -- "The name tells us a lot, does it not, senator?" Senator Hutchison replied, "It does. It does, Shepard."

Do you think Sen. Hutchison plans to introduce legislation to ban certain names? Or that she might call for the arrest of people with those names?

Perhaps you can clarify for people around the world just what is in a name. What does it tell us, Mr. Smith?

Hugh Sansom

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Maureen Dowd's Apology for a Pathetic President

Maureen Dowd offers one of the weakest apologies I have yet seen for the miserable excuse of a president, Obama. On the occasion of Obama's visit to Dover Air Force Base to salute the fallen returning from Afghanistan, Dowd prates:

It may have been a photo op, another way Obama could show he was not W., the president who started the Iraq war in a haze of fakery and then declined to ever confront the reality of its dead.

Certainly, as Obama tries to figure out how to avoid being a war president when he’s saddled with two wars, he wants as much military cred in the bank as he can get.

But it was also a genuinely poignant moment. It is how we want our presidents to behave, doing the humane thing especially when it’s hard. And Obama, who called it “a sobering reminder” of sacrifices made, signaled to Americans that he will resist blinders as he grapples with the byzantine, seemingly bottomless conflicts he inherited.

...

President Obama bore witness just as he is deciding whether to accede to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for up to 80,000 more troops in Afghanistan.

He should keep in mind Cyrus Vance’s warning before President Carter decided to send a Delta team to rescue the Iranian hostages (an ill-fated decision that provoked Vance’s resignation as secretary of state). “Generals will rarely tell you they can’t do something,” he said. “This is a complex damn operation, and I haven’t forgotten the old saying from my Pentagon days that in the military, anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

Barack Obama, the wunderkind who came out of nowhere to win the presidency, was supposed to push America out of the ditch and into a glittering future. But modernity is elusive when you’re in a time machine to the 14th century called Afghanistan. The tableau of Obama at Dover evoked the last line of “The Great Gatsby:” “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

As Obama comforted families at a tragic moment, he also had to contemplate a tragic dimension of his own presidency: It’s nice to talk about change, but you can’t wipe away yesterday.

Obama wants to be the cosmopolitan president of the world, and social engineer at home to improve the lives of Americans.

But what he had in mind for renovating American society hinged on spending a lot of money on energy, education, the environment and health care. Instead, he has been trapped in the money pits of a recession and two wars.

For now, the man who promised revolution will have to settle for managing adversity.

My response:

"Obama wants to be the cosmopolitan president of the world, and social engineer at home to improve the lives of Americans."

Really.

Obama releases photos from Dover and suppresses photos from Abu Ghraib and Gitmo -- photos by Americans of American war crimes. Obama, "social engineer", has carried on most of what Bush had started in bailing out Wall Street and the American Oligarchs, to whom he clearly feels more allegiance than he does to the American People. He has guaranteed the profits of health insurers. He is reneging on commitments to close off vast tracts of wilderness from logging and roads. Obama has advocated Bush-era violations of the civil and Constitutional rights of Americans.

Obama, "cosmopolitan president of the world", threatened Britons' safety in order to suppress facts about American atrocities. He has defended and extended the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan by the 'brave' use of pilotless drones. He will not go to Copenhagen and his representatives are likely to be a drag on progress towards solving climate problems. This month we will almost certainly not become the first president to visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Before Israel, after some vague promises, Obama has caved repeatedly, condemning Palestinians to some of the worst conditions confronting any people on Earth.

Obama promised a great deal. He has given every indication that those promises were never anything more than words to win votes. This is the explanation that accounts for his wide-ranging, repeated failures to live up to the promises -- not Maureen Dowd's thin apologia that he has to "manage" diversity.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Lighter Side of Lite Beer

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Carter-Ruck and the Law of Evil

Americans may be unfamiliar with the case of Carter-Ruck, Trafigura and press freedom in Britain.

Britons enjoy substantially less press freedom than Americans. The leading British law firm, Carter-Ruck, proved just how much less in the past few days. Trafigura, a Swiss multinational, has been implicated in a number of crimes, most recently illegal waste dumping. It is also tied to the infamous Marc Rich, billionaire criminal several times over and beneficiary of Bill Clinton's notorious last-minute pardon.

Carter-Ruck has been representing Trafigura. As Wikipedia now records, "On October 12, 2009 The Guardian newspaper reported that it had been prevented by legal injunction from covering remarks made in Parliament. " That injunction was secured by Carter-Ruck. Twitter and the internet blew the lid off Carter-Ruck's attempts to do an end-run around democracy and freedom of the press.

It is one thing to defend the accused, a right all have (even criminal corporations, polluters, health insurers, Wall Street thieves). It's another to abet a crime by suppressing the public's right to know.

We the People shouldn't underestimate the actions of Carter-Ruck nor should we let Trafigura or Carter-Ruck get off scot-free. Below is the email I sent to Carter-Ruck:

To Whom It May Concern:

For an essay on practical issues of professional ethics and justice, I would like to enquire on Carter-Ruck's response to the overwhelmingly negative press received following your attempt to suppress the truth in the case of alleged misconduct by Trafigura.

In particular, do Carter-Ruck's senior officers feel any sense of shame or are they simply breathing a sigh of relief that worse publicity was averted? Do they view their attempts to suppress truth and subvert democracy as unethical? Do they view themselves as effectively complicit in the any crimes of Trafigura?

Sincerely,

Hugh Sansom

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Outer Space, Man

Two graphics. First from I'm not sure where, representing the many planetary and other missions going back to Pioneer, Voyager and before. The second, my own render of what the Sun roughly looks like from Voyager 1, now near 10 billion miles, 16 billion kilometers, from Earth and the Sun — a damn long way, but still just 15 light-hours from the Sun. So a photon would take just 15 hours to catch up with Voyager 1, which has been traveling for 32 years.



See the full size space exploration graphic here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Hunter's Defense

The hunter said the guy he shot looked like
a house which looked like a deer . . . running.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Health Insurers' Willing Executioners

Baucus, Grassley, Hatch, Snowe. These are the murderers. Murderers for hire. They have been bought, or have willing sold themselves, to the Health Insurers — Wellpoint, Aetna, Cigna, United.... We remain ill, we die so they can make money.

In mythology and religious history, these vile creatures have their ancestors. In Dante, the Baucuses, Grassleys, Snowes suffer in the lowest levels of hell.

We the People must give them Hell on Earth, now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NASA's Messenger Spacecraft Flies by Mercury

Today, September 29th, the Messenger spacecraft will approach to within 142 miles (about 229 km) of the surface of Mercury. That's damn close — closer than many satellites are to Earth's surface.

Using the freeware Celestia, I created this image of what Mercury and the Sun would look like at a distance of 3000 kilometers, much further away than Messenger will be. The Sun looks a lot bigger there. Mercury is just 58 million km from the Sun, as opposed to Earth's 150 million km.
Further down, check out the comparison of how the Sun looks here on Earth with how it looks on Mercury (courtesy of messenger-education.org or here too). Click on the images to see full-size.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Twittering Again (too lazy to type)

Be afraid, be very afraid. Taser & all the Brave New Weapons can kill. But the gov't is sure they can be 'safely' used domestically & abroad

Less than Lethal Weapons: US et al (Brits, French, Israelis..) r all hot & bothered re Brave New Weapons LRAD sound cannon, Silent Guardian

Dept of Newspeak, 'Non-Lethal Weapons': LRAD Sound Cannon Used on Pittsburgh G20 Protesters http://gizmodo.com/5369190

Guess this is to make us feel better given we'll never be able to retire: "Workers thriving at 70, 80, and even 100" http://bit.ly/dM52N

RT @wired Fun fact: Colorado River Toads are psychoactive - skin contains hallucinogenic tryptamines which can be harvested by stroking toad

This is a Colorado River Toad. That's doing his best Spock impression. http://bit.ly/bUizU (via @nerdist) (via @wired)

Scary: Bullet Makers Can't Keep Up With Demand http://bit.ly/XjqG7 (via @AlterNet)

RT @bobfertik Historic first! Netroots crowdsourcing produces Bush Torture Indictment 2.0 http://bit.ly/U61Au @davidcnswanson

RT @thenation Arundhati Roy: So, is there life after democracy? Read "What Have We Done to Democracy?" @thenation http://tinyurl.com/ye63nwh

US dollar set to be eclipsed, World Bank president predicts http://bit.ly/11h8HW (via @GuardianUSA)

HuffPost - Obama Adviser Signals White House Giving Up On Climate Change Treaty - http://tinyurl.com/yamhnnw

HuffPost: Senator Schumer Receives $1.65 Million From Wall Street - http://tinyurl.com/ycdm4cx

Micheletti government suspends civil liberties in Honduras http://bit.ly/VuSQu And Obama & US support Micheletti - another Obama triumph

Stunning US successes in Iraq, Afghanistan so GOPs Jon Kyl & Kit Bond are calling for a 3peat in Iran http://bit.ly/p2mf0

Why is Obama pushing harder for Chicago's Olympic bid than he is for real change on the climate policy?

2 Parents, 5 Jobs, STILL not enough Health Care. Republicans, incl Olympia Snowe, think this fine. Obama grovels http://bit.ly/13qdfX

NYC is 49th in the Americas in Quality of Life. http://bit.ly/84WRB @mikebloomberg @Thompson2009

Mercer survey of quality of life finds the top 5 cities in the Americas are all in Canada: http://www.mercer.com/quali...

MAP: India as a growing global power. From Le Monde. http://mondediplo.com/maps/...
about 13 hours ago from web

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Paul Krugman: The American Dream Is Dying

This clip from the Huffington Post:
Krugman: On bad mornings I wake up and think that we are turning into a Latin American country.

On good mornings I think "This is America" and we have always in the past managed to turn ourselves around, and there's an FDR just around the corner.... I was kind of hoping that Obama might be FDR, but maybe not.

If America was officially a third world country, the International Monetary Fund would come in and say, "You have to break the power of your oligarchs. Those banking interests, they have too much power."
...

The truth is that most people don't have parents who [can send them money].

...

The American Dream is not totally dead but it's dying pretty fast. You look at the numbers on social mobility, on the ability of people to move from modest or poor backgrounds up, the United States is way down on the list.... You have a much better chance of getting up the scale in Finland or Sweden or France than in the United States.

On "Real Time with Bill Maher" Friday night, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said that while the American dream is not totally dead, it is "dying pretty fast," particularly when it comes to social mobility. Krugman made this statement during a lengthy discussion with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and host Bill Maher about the troubled state of the American economy and where we are in terms of reforming the system.

Both Krugman and Spitzer expressed optimism that America could right itself in the coming years if the correct steps were taken, but they were also highly critical of the degree of inequality that has become a part of American life and the lack of reform that has so far taken place.

"On bad mornings I wake up and think that we are turning into a Latin American country," Krugman said. "But on good mornings I think, well this is America, we have always in the past managed to turn ourselves around, and there is an FDR just around the corner if we could only find him. I was kind of hoping Obama might be FDR, but maybe not. "

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Most Corrupt Members of Congress

"Trying to find the most corrupt member of Congress is like trying to find the wettest fish in the ocean."
— me
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has published a report on the 15 most corrupt members in Congress. Of those 15
  • 12 are under investigation
  • several are under pressure to resign
  • at least one is an adulterer
  • one is a tax evader

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will War's Idolaters Ever Just Shut the Fuck Up?

Martin Bright in the Spectator
Incidentally, I now think the invasion was indeed an error: carried out at the wrong time, by the wrong coalition for the wrong reasons. But where I do agree with the “decents” is that those who opposed intervention in 2002/3 were arguing for the murderous Baathist regime to stay in power. This should remain on their conscience just as the murderous consequences of the invasion are on the conscience of those who supported the war.
(via Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, via comments at Aaronovitch Watch)

Martin Bright's assertion that those who argued against the war were arguing for preservation of the Baathist regime is simply idiotic. False logic, false dichotomy.

First, it is patently obvious that the intent of the two sides was different, and the difference is essential. The pro-war brigade intended that the 'coalition' go to war. (I'm tempted to say they wanted a war. That might be unfair, though not in the case of the Dick Cheneys. It both fair and accurate that a significant portion of them wanted to see Arabs killed. Whether Martin Bright is among those genocidal racists I do not know. Daniel Pipes, Ann Coulter and their ilk certainly are.)

The anti-war activists expressly (1) advocated other techniques for achieving 'regime change (if that really was the goal of war's advocates — it wasn't), or (2) argued against war on the grounds that the consequences of war would be disastrous (which has proven true), or (3) argued that Bush & Co had not only failed to make their case but had likely misrepresented the facts (at best) or lied outright (which has also proven true). This is by no means an exhaustive list of the arguments against the war. The second argument is unambiguously one of accepting the lesser of two evils — by no stretch of the imagination an argument for the continuation of the lesser evil.

Let's take an example from ethics and popular entertainment. A person is threatened with the murder of her child if she does not surrender secret X — the nuclear launch codes that will enable terrorists to kill vast numbers. Any of us can easily imagine the person herself desperately arguing that she cannot surrender the codes. I do not imagine many, if any, saying that she is arguing for the murder of her child even though a consequence of her following the line of her own argument will be the child's death. You might as well suggest that, because she won't surrender the codes, she is killing her child. And of course, the weak-minded right-wing did indeed take this line of un-reasoning from 2001 on — that those not "with us" were "against us," those against the war were for terrorists. Utter nonsense, bordering on actionable libel.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plausible Stupidity

Have you noticed the frequency with which conservatives and assorted right-wingers are caught denying they said something revolting when in fact they did say that thing.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Ronald Reagan, John Boehner, Dan Quayle.

Let's face it: These guys are dumb. They just aren't particularly intelligent. Whatever native intellect they once possessed was long ago obliterated by the blind hatreds and bigotries that infest right-wing thinking in the United States.

We need a new term — Plausible Stupidity. Incidents of right-wing Plausible Stupidity are typically characterized by a flat denial by the wingnut even when confronted with direct evidence.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Twitting Twitting Twitting

  1. IF there is a time when it is incumbent upon us to speak freely, it is before the president, who so far is proving deaf as a doornail
  2. 2. Decorum be damned. If free speech exists anywhere in US, it exists in Congress (may not be practiced but it does exist) AND
  3. I've caught flak 4 defending Joe Wilson. 2 thoughts: 1: Wilson is a idiot & like rt-wing generally, engaging in no more than mudslinging BUT
  4. If "He's our president" is true, then is "We're his people" true also? (Maybe some will want to say "We're his subjects".)
  5. Still waiting for explanation of why we owe the president unique respect that doesn't take form: "Because he's our President!"
  6. @mikebloomberg We know you sneer at questions, Mike. But: What'll happen to your Brave New York when unemployment stays over 10% for years
  7. RT @Greg_Palast When Obama opened..talk to Congress sayng he'd saved..economy, I thought all that's missing is..banner: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
  8. Between 3 and 6 percent of Earth's total surface is rainforest. 50 percent of all animal & plant species live in that 3 to 6 percent.
  9. Darwin film can't find US distributor because...too many Americans still have a fit over evolution. http://tr.im/yBl6
  10. #SinglePayer & #PublicOption Debate: we know what moves Libs - Justice. What moves rt-wing? Money? Is that best they can say 4 themselves?
  11. Question for Republicons & Blue Doggy Dems: Why does private insurance have priority over getting health care to every American?
  12. Sen. Gregg, NH, "no way the private sector will be able to compete" w/ #PublicOption YET Britain France Canada have both http://tr.im/yAo4
  13. New York Times admits #PublicOption dead. Obama's big biz bosses, health insurance & big pharma oppose it. End of story http://tr.im/yAo4
  14. Democrats are afflicted by the need to have everyone like them, Republicans by the need to get their way - 2 siblings forever fighting
  15. The 'Moderate Center' supported war in Iraq, bailouts for billionaires, denial of rights for detainees. Some moderation! Some center!
  16. The 'Moderate Center' (which is neither) paints all left & right as fanatics, then claims the 'Right' to ignore them (esp. the left)
  17. US political discourse is marked by each band of the spectrum shouting it needn't talk to others. The 'Moderate Center' is worst on this.
  18. Is there an 'American attitude' that leads athletes to behave revoltingly, like Serena Williams, and politicians to act like spoiled brats?
  19. Nikki White because she was denied health care - she had no insurance. http://tr.im/yzut
  20. @BeathThePressDB Do you believe estimates of number of Americans w/out health insurance are understated, as are figures for unemployment?
  21. Personal vitriol upending political compromise isn't new: Witness Alexander Hamilton & John Adams, election of 1800; Hamilton & Burr...
  22. 1790 Hamilton et al agree to US capital on Potamac. New York becomes business capital. 2009 Wall St moves to Washington: http://tr.im/yzoY
  23. @KatrinaNation "degradation of..political sphere..hatred" needs understanding, much as y some hate US. It's not new, the ill-formed polity
  24. Any thoughts on the psychological profile of @mikebloomberg ? I suspect a little man bedeviled by longstanding feelings of inadequacy
  25. Suggestion @mikebloomberg - You have a multi-million dollar mansion in Bermuda. Move there & appoint yourself Lord Protector or whatever
  26. Did @mikebloomberg just wake up one morning and think, "New York just can't do without me. I am too important to the city."
  27. GOP & Blue Doggy Dem states to get hammered most by Climate Change in US! Must be The Wrath of God! http://tr.im/yydD
  28. 80% of Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch (twice the size of Texas) is just discards by people on shore. http://tr.im/yyco
  29. 10% of the 260 million TONS of plastic produced worldwide each yr end up in oceans. 26 million tons. 52 billion pounds. http://tr.im/yybq
  30. Giant rat discovered ... NOT in New York subways! http://tr.im/yyap
  31. And now a word from our sponsor, Planet Earth: "Before you try to re-engineer me to stave off warming, think." http://tr.im/yya7
  32. They're all Lucky! They're all Stars! Be Faithful and Be Saved!
  33. Who is Your Personal Lucky Star? Could it be Timothy Geithner or Larry Summers or Lloyd Blankfein or maybe Barack Obama or Dick Cheney?
  34. Do you have a personal relationship with Your Lucky Stars?
  35. Join The 1st Church of Your Lucky Stars. Church of Modern Media Saints! Church of The New York Times, Harvard, Goldman Sachs. Say Amen!
  36. Have you thanked your lucky stars today?
  37. Every day I thank my lucky stars we have 'experts' 'journalists' 'scholars' to tell us what's right, what's wrong, what's true, what's false
  38. Bernanke, Blankfein, Thain, Greenberg, Lewis. The very archetypes of Failure by any reasonable measure. But they = Success in US Meritocracy
  39. Go to the Hugh Sansom Business School. Cost: Zero. 3 Easy Lessons: Lie Cheat Steal. Harvard BS teaches same, charges over $100k
  40. Meritocracy Case 5: Bernard Kerik, former NYPD Commish, Harvard Kennedy School; now under indictment for conspiracy, wire & mail fraud
  41. Meritocracy Case 4: Mike Bloomberg, NYC Boss, Harvard BS; currently proving understanding of democracy by overriding voters, buying 3rd term
  42. Meritocracy Case 3: John Thain, ex Merrill Lynch CEO, Goldman Sachs 'alum', MIT, proved superior intellect shitting $35,000 on toilet
  43. Meritocracy Case Study 2: Lloyd Blankfein, CEO Goldman Sachs, Harvard U, Harvard Law, proved business skill by stealing 100+ billion from US
  44. Meritocracy Case Study 1: Katherine Weymouth, Washington Post publisher, Harvard Oxford Stanford, inherited job, now driving into oblivion
  45. Myth of Meritocracy, Pt. 1: How many people have a 'boss' who couldn't organize a riot?
  46. Truth about @nytimes reporter Stephen Farrell who got 3 people killed in Afghanistan because he wouldn't heed warning http://tr.im/yxdj
  47. Georgia arrests man, seizes 500 turtles...to protect the turtles. Man is acquitted. But Georgia has *killed* 362 of the turtles...protection
  48. Newt "PornBoy" Gingrich names Porn Co 'Entrepreneur of The Year' for 'Stimulating' ... uh ... the economy
  49. Birthers Truthers now Tenthers. Governors of limited intelligence may challenge Fed HealthCare by appeal to 10th Amendment http://tr.im/yx9p
  50. @washingtonpost Heard you guys lost $143 million. Maybe Katherine Weymouth should go to school that actually requires learning something
  51. @KBAndersen WaPo lost $143 mill: Katherine Weymouth proves the value of Harvard, Oxford, Stanford degrees - big poles up big asses
  52. Here's the Greek or Old Testament solution 4 Annie Leibovitz: She can keep 1 mill for each silver gelatin print of her's that she can eat
  53. Annie Leibovitz charges $100,000 for 1 portrait (yeah u read it right) & she still can't keep her financial shit together. Just like Wall St
  54. Leibovitz: 3 adjoining houses in Greenwich Village (many millions); Estate in Rhinebeck (more millions); Chutzpah - priceless
  55. If Annie Leibovitz is such an 'artiste', what's with her money-grubbing lust? Whatever happened to old world Greek or biblical justice...
  56. Wall St gets bailout, Annie Leibovitz gets reprieve. http://bit.ly/AMnKB What do us regular folks get? A kick in the teeth.
  57. Can I get an Annie Leibovitz deal on my credit cards? Maybe I have to owe millions first. http://tr.im/ywN9
  58. RT @wiredscience: Universal "death stench": Is dead bug juice the best defense against infestations? Yummy, yummy.
  59. 1 Yr After Cataclysm, Little Change on Wall St http://bit.ly/Lt2L1 Surprised? Obama & Co REWARDED Wall St w/ 100s of billions
  60. http://tinyurl.com/nbraqm - Summers: Unemployment To Remain "Unacceptably High" For YEARS. Good for green shoots?...
  61. RT @haaretzonline Amos Harel: Clock is ticking for Iran as Israel appears ready for strike http://bit.ly/3q4aJA
  62. The hysteria over the mere shout against a president is proof of how completely Americans believe that President is also King
  63. Where does this idea that we owe fealty to the president come from? Joe Wilson's a vile idiot for lying, not for daring to challenge Obama
  64. Health industry lobbyist sees some sense, particularly on the criminal behavior of health insurers http://tr.im/yu5P
  65. Brzezinski: We're moving "to a [Soviet] level of military force" http://tr.im/yu3h In fact, with US mercenaries, we exceed Soviet level
  66. 1979: Brzezinski on Afghan war "We've given Soviets their Vietnam" 2009: B says "We're giving ourselves Soviets Vietnam" http://tr.im/yu3h
  67. RT @FDLnewswire Pelosi Fundraiser at UnitedHealth Lobbyist’s Home, just after Pelosi shitcans the #PublicOption http://bit.ly/RVHhp
  68. RT @haaretzonline France's interior minister allegedly caught on cam uttering anti-Arab slur http://bit.ly/4CVqGq
  69. Jeter beats Lou Gehrig's all-time hits record! Here's to Jeter & to The Iron Horse, one of the finest ball players ever http://tr.im/ytP3
  70. "Bring Richard's...private art collection into your home" So reads ad 4 re Weisman's collection http://tr.im/ytKc Someone took it literally
  71. RT @jeremyscahill UnitedHealth Lobbyist Announces Pelosi Fundraiser As She Begins Backing Off #PublicOption http://bit.ly/YtHDY
  72. Person stands on pier next to life preserver but does nothing as swimmer drowns. Life guard does SAME. Who has committed greater crime?
  73. Obama is engaged in a war purportedly to bring to justice the murderers of 3000 Americans. Health insurers kill hundreds of thousands.
  74. [The People] can exercise their constitutional right of amending [the government] or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it
  75. Lincoln "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it" Not Obama, Not GOP, Not Dems, Not Insurers, Not the Rich
  76. @nprnews "Muslims Seen As Facing Discrimination" http://su.pr/1jGpoN No, NOT Muslims SEEN as facing.... Muslims ARE facing discrimination
  77. If Obama will not prosecute and impose sentence on the health insurance murderers, We the People must do so.
  78. Angela Braly, Wellpoint. H Edward Hanway, Cigna. Ronald Williams, Aetna. Murderers all. All should be subject to the penalty any murderer is
  79. Sacrificing people's health and lives for money makes a person a murderer for hire. It's a crime. It's murder.