Saturday, August 31, 2013

Share the Blame

Our President appears to have decided that it in his best interest to get Congressional approval for military action against the Assad regime in Syria.  If it turns out to be a total screw-up, which appears to be increasingly likely if he goes ahead with it, it won't be only his fault.  If Congress turns him down, as Parliament turned down David Cameron, he can breathe a sigh of relief and back down.  The cowards in Congress will be responsible for their failure to avenge those dead children.  Politically, it's the smartest thing he could have done.

The Syrian civil war, essentially, is the most recent outbreak of a regional conflict between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims that began back in the seventh century.  We can't solve it, and the smartest thing to do is not try.  It comes down to Iran (where the US is "the Great Satan") v. Saudi Arabia (the home of Al Qaeda.)

Furthermore, no multinational corporations seem very involved in Syria, so why should the Army of the Multinationals (ours) get involved?  Let's wait for a real threat to the bankers, the arms merchants, the commodities traders, et al.

I'm kind of glad August is over.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Representative democracy!!!

Granted, David Cameron is a prime minister leading a coalition government, but it still was something of a triumph for representative democracy when Cameron actually felt the need to go to Parliament for approval before joining Obama in military action in Syria.  Granted, the vote opposing involvement in Syria was non-binding, but one suspects Cameron feels pretty much bound.

Now it's time for Obama to go to Congress.  Unless my admittedly deteriorating memory totally has failed me,  Obama ran, in 2008, against the imperial presidency claimed by his excellency the W.  Ah, how soon he forgets.

We cannot know how Congress might vote.  Knee-jerk opposition to Obama in the House might hurt him, but those same oppositional assholes really hate those Muslim types, and don't care very much which bunch we bomb.  Which prejudice will prevail?

Personally, I'm horrified by what the Syrians (not to mention the Iraqis and Afghans) are inclined to do to each other, but I don't think lobbing a few missiles would make much difference, and I'd lay odds a couple of missiles would be less accurate than currently claimed, and blow up a bunch of women and children.

Go to Congress, Barack.  Share the blame.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria: So where do we bomb?

It seems pretty clear that the Assad regime was responsible for the nerve gas attack on that Damascus suburb controlled by the "rebels."  Our President, as you are aware, drew a "red line" regarding use of chemical weapons.  Now, it seems, the USofA must do something.  It sounds like that something involves sending Cruise missiles to blow up carefully selected segments of Syria.

Most Americans would be very happy if one Cruise missile could blow up Bashir al Assad — and a few of his chief lieutenants — and that would be that.  Well, while the NSA probably has enough data to know where to blow up you or me by tracking our cell phones, I suspect that Bashir al Assad is a bit more careful than we are.

If we really know where the chemical weapon stockpiles are stockpiled, blowing them away would be a very good thing — but, you know, they just may have been moved.

Does the NSA know more about me and you than about Bashir al Assad?

Maybe.  Maybe not.  They're not telling.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


The Prez has called for an increase in the minimum wage.  Good for him, even if it's just a meaningless gesture to garner a drop of positive feeling from real liberals who are nauseated by his security state.  Unless he has a secret plan to win back the House in 2014, it ain't gonna happen.

Anyway, what's really been pissing me off are those so-called "economists" (not to mention so called "job creators") blabbing about how raising the minimum wage will constrict the job market.  No matter what low wage labor costs, employers always will employ the bare minimum number of workers they need to get the job done.  They don't spend more than they have to on labor just because the labor is cheap... and don't even get me started on unpaid interns.

The argument that low wages mean more jobs sounds good if you're an idiot, I suppose.  Also, I suppose there are a good number of idiots out there.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Courts martial

Bradley Manning

35 years, maybe paroled in nine or ten?  To me, it sounds like a pretty stiff term for, essentially, embarrassing the USofA.  It's way beyond terms given to previous leakers, especially considering that the vast majority of them never were prosecuted — and, no, I don't expect Clinton in blackface to issue a pardon.

On the bright side, if he can convince a psychiatrist (and based on previous case law), Manning may be able to get the military to provide and pay for sex reassignment treatment and surgery while he's incarcerated, and leave the brig as a thirty-something woman.  I'd love that.

Robert Bales

Bales had to be extremely fucked up when he massacred all those villagers in Afghanistan.  PTSD is kind of assumed for combat soldiers, so I guess the plea bargain that let him escape the death penalty makes sense.  On the other hand, I really would like to know who was providing the steroids that pushed him over the edge.

Somehow, I don't see Biogenesis (of Alex Rodriquez fame) running a clinic in Afghanistan.  Was it the military getting the troops more thoroughly amped?  We need more Bradley Mannings.

Nidal Malik Hasan

The Army psychiatrist who shot up Fort Hood rested his case today, offering no defense.  The lawyers assigned to help him represent himself believe he is aiming for a death penalty so he can become a "martyr."  His motive for the shootings, it seems, was that he didn't want to be deployed to Afghanistan to take part in the slaughter of other Muslims.

If they sentence him to life without parole, rather than death, he'll still be a "martyr."  A paraplegic living out his life in a military prison is likely  to suffer a lot more than a man who gets to die with reasonable dispatch.

And so...

I feel sympathy for all three of these poor bastards.  All three, as I see it, probably were brain-fucked by the USofA.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Egypt is a mess, but what should the USofA do about it?

A better question would be, what can the USofA do about it?

I suspect the answer to both questions is, nothing.  I suppose we could, shall we say, postpone our planned joint military exercises with the Egyptian army.  We could call a coup a coup, and discontinue military aid.  Whatever we do, though, we lose.

There is a perception in the Muslim world that the USofA might even have had a hand in instigating the coup, and who knows? — that perception might be right.  It's always been easier for us to deal with autocrats and military dictatorships than with the messiness of emerging democracies.  Kings and Shahs and Generalissimos are better for business.

Anyway, I'm sure we'll "support" whoever comes out on top, although it's likely to take a while before we find out just who that will be.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Law 'n' awduh

"You don't get the amount of law enforcement we can afford, you get the amount of law enforcement we can tolerate."
Sid Heal, Technology Consultant

Sid, who appeared on the PBS Newshour tonight, is a pretty bright guy.  I guess he was supposed to come in and defend police use of high speed license plate scanners, but the guy has a talent for nuance.  The woman from the ACLU, to her surprise, wound up kind of agreeing with him.

There was more law 'n' awduh news tonight.  Whitey Bulger was convicted on all but one count, still claiming the FBI hadn't been protecting him for the past couple of decades.  Well, they sure as hell were not looking for him, at least until the involved agents were retired or dead.

Then, again, AG Eric Holder gave a speech to the ABA suggesting that low level drug offenders might be diverted from mandatory minimum sentences.  It's a nice idea, and might divert attention from Holder's (to wit, Obama's) war on leakers and whistleblowers, but the administration assumes Congress will bog down trying to change the law.  Probably, that's entirely correct.

It seems the USofA has 5% of the world's population and 25% of its prisoners but, what the hell?  It appears we can tolerate a whole lot of law enforcement.

Finally, a federal court decided that New York City's "stop and frisk" program is pretty much racist.  I agree.  New York City's next mayor definitely should get rid of Kelly, but really ought to revisit the idea of congestion pricing.  Congestion pricing doesn't have much to do with law 'n' awduh, but I still think it's a good idea.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Are you "comfortable" now?

At yesterday's news conference, Our President suggested we all should feel "comfortable" with the NSA's collection of vast amounts of our personal data.  Needless to say, he blamed Edward Snowden for our discomfort.  Well, that's true, I suppose.  If we'd never found out how extreme our surveillance state had become, I guess we wouldn't have been all that bothered by it.

Under current circumstances, though, I am bothered by it — and the president's promise to jiggle the system a little to achieve a better "balance" between security and privacy doesn't reassure me at all.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

More shorties

"An excess of caution"

Needless to say, Obama didn't want another Benghazi, but how do you get another Benghazi if you're forewarned?  Wouldn't it make more sense to wait for the attack and crush it?  Some extra security, especially in Sana, should have done the trick.

On the other hand, some idiots might get the idea that the NSA "security" offensive against the American public (and the rest of the world) made "saving" our embassies and consulates possible.  It's bullshit, of course.  Nobody found out about upcoming events in Yemen by logging American phone data.

Crap.  Pure crap.


We're out of there, thankfully.  What we left behind is a civil war.  The real shame is that most of the dead people are just poor suckers, including a lot of children, who never did a bit of harm to anybody.  I don't suppose taking out Maliki would help, but it would help me feel happier.

Fannie and Freddie

Let's not forget that Fannie and Freddie weren't privatized until Lyndon Johnson needed some extra cash to blow in Vietnam.  Now that they're nationalized again, and starting to turn a profit, why not just keep them nationalized and use the money they're bringing in for, say, infrastructure or education?

I never understood why our government only is allowed to own losers.  Hell, let's nationalize the oil and gas companies!


Corruption is endemic, worldwide, and the United States certainly is no exception.  I think it was Mark Twain who said we have "the best Congress money can buy," and he hadn't even seen the Congress we have now.

Is there a way to get the money out of politics?  If there is, I wouldn't even have a clue where to start.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Odds (against us) and Ends

Edward Snowden

Congratulations to Edward Snowden on getting out of the goddamned airport.  I hate airports, and I don't suppose Russian airports are any better than American airports.  Five weeks at an airport just might cause PTSD.

Weiner and his weiner

Frankly, I never understood the allure of "virtual" sex — but, to each his (or her) own.  Weiner says a lot of the right things, but on the other hand, Weiner's sleazy reputation might make him a weaker mayor than he otherwise might have been.  Also, as I recall, he didn't accomplish jack shit while he was in Congress.  I don't get to vote in NYC, but I kind of like Bill DeBlasio.  The super-rich have had a good run under Bloomberg, but it's time for the poor to have a turn.

Scraping away at abortion rights

Are the "scientists" claiming that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks the same "scientists" denying climate change, or just their close (and inbred) cousins?  It would be very nice indeed if scarcely any women needed to seek abortions, but that's not in our immediate future.  Let's hope that the free availability of Plan B will change that equation.

Bradley Manning

Army Colonel/Judge Denise Lind, I suppose, kind of "compromised" when she found the kid not guilty of aiding the enemy but still guilty of violating the WWI Espionage Act, one of the most atrocious pieces of legislation ever enacted in the United States but, sadly, never repealed.  Even more sadly, Our President likes it.  How did he ever get a degree in Constitutional law?

Eliot Spitzer

Okay, back to NYC — Wall Street, women's groups, and city unions are ganging up in a couple of superPACS to defeat Spitzer's run for Comptroller.  Wall Street is understandable — he messed them up big time when he was the state AG.  The women, I guess, just don't like men who patronize top shelf call girls.  As for the unions, I'm not certain — but since they endorsed Scott Stringer before Spitzer got in the race, it may be they're hoping that loyalty will bring rewards.

The Corporate Income Tax

Obama isn't saying which corporate tax loopholes he would close to make cutting the top corporate income tax rate from 35% to 28% revenue neutral, but we can be pretty sure few if any of those changes would be enacted into law, and that a bunch of new loopholes would be added in short order.  Was this Larry Summers' idea?  I wouldn't be surprised.