Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Some final thoughts for 2014


Guns don't kill people...
...two-year-olds who dip into their mothers' handbags while shopping at Wal-Mart kill people — well, one of them killed his duly licensed for concealed carry mother, at any rate.  I guess she thought putting the safety on was a violation of her Second Amendment rights.  Let's hope the kid never finds out what he did.

Syriza
Reading about the upcoming Greek elections, I was surprised to see the Times referring to Syriza as "radical."  Hey, NYT!  Being anti-austerity does not make a party radical.  It just makes it Keynesian and, hence, more likely to help the Greek people than "center-right" parties dedicated to kissing Angela Merkel's ass.

Scalise
Why is anybody surprised to learn that new House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana delivered a speech to David Duke's white supremacist EURO organization?  He's a southern Republican, which means he has to pander to racists.  (It won't hurt him a bit.)

Palestinians and the ICC
Israel and the USofA have their knickers in a twist because the Palestinians want to join the International Criminal Court.  It's not just that the Palestinians may bring charges against the Israelis — the big problem is that they just might win.

Monday, December 29, 2014

That other shooting...

A black teenager identified as Antonio Martin was shot to death by a police officer in Berkeley, MO, a couple of miles from Ferguson.  This shooting didn't get as much attention, though, because the kid "had a gun."

But did he?

The police "recovered" a gun at the scene, but somehow the officer "forgot" to wear his body camera and "forgot" to turn on his dashboard camera.  A very indistinct security video from the gas station where the shooting took place shows Martin raising his arm, but it is impossible to say if he was aiming a pistol, much less that the pistol "recovered" at the scene was his.  Since the Michael Brown shooting, at least, I'm betting a lot more policemen patrolling poor black areas carry "throw-away" guns.

The other thing I can't tell from the video is the race of the officer.  Unlike Ferguson, Berkeley has a black mayor, a black police chief, and a fairly diverse police force.  If the officer was black, many might hesitate to accuse him of an unjustified shooting.  The sad truth, though, is that black policemen are scarcely more enlightened that white policemen when dealing with young black men.  You don't have to be white to prejudge a black boy in a hoodie.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The CIA: Where We Are Now

Forget the intricate spy novels of John LeCarre.  Even forget Jack Bauer, whose use of torture foiled a terrorist plot every week.  Under Obama, the CIA has evolved.  Information collection has taken second place to assassination.  The CIA no longer is an intelligence gathering organization, it is a paramilitary force.

It seems that capturing and interrogating individuals associated with terrorist organizations got a little dicey, especially after torture (admittedly useless, but so much fun) was discontinued.  It turned out to be so much easier to blow away "suspects" with drone strikes.  Presumably, there is more evidence against the "suspects" than a resentful brother-in-law, but even so, one has to wonder whether due process of law might reach different conclusions.

The second victim of a CIA drone strike was US citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, age 16.  One supposes it was reasonable to assume he would grow up to be antagonistic to the USofA since victim number one was his father, Anwar.  Just the same, as best we can tell, the kid hadn't actually done anything yet.

Then there's the "collateral damage" — wedding parties and whatnot blown to bits because some terror suspect was the bride's second cousin once removed.  Even if the suspect was killed, the rest of the casualties were just straight-out murders.

Responsibility for drone strikes was supposed to be transferred to the Pentagon, which, at least, is under some oversight — but the CIA was allowed to continue killing with only minor restraint.  Since CIA activities are classified, nobody has to take the blame for screw-ups.

Among those escaping blame is Our President, who allows the CIA to act independently without Executive oversight.  And the band plays on...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dead Cops

According to PBA President Patrick Lynch, who seems to be auditioning to take over Rush Limbaugh's job after the fat man finally kills himself with prescription pain killers, Bill DeBlasio has "blood on his hands" because the mayor supported non-violent protest in the streets of New York City, and wants to put limits on "stop and frisk — the easiest way for patrolmen to build impressive "arrest records" and move up in the ranks.

Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the shooter, started his day in Baltimore, where he shot his girfriend.  She is not a cop.  Then he rode the bus to New York and took the subway to Brooklyn, where he found Ramos and Liu sitting in their squad car, and shot them.  They were cops.  Then Brinsley shot himself.  He was not a cop.

Given his criminal history, we can be sure he didn't like cops.  How much did the Garner and Brown deaths influence his actions?  My guess is, not much, if at all.  He was ready to kill himself, maybe because he knew he'd be screwed after shooting his girlfriend.  He wasn't using Garner and Brown to justify shooting Ramos and Liu, he was using Ramos and Liu to justify shooting himself.  Killing the cops let him go out thinking he would look like a "hero."

Nobody thinks he's a hero.  Everybody knows he was just nuts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Cuba

After 55 years of the Cuban embargo, not many of us remember what was on the island before the Castro takeover.  Listening to the right-wing Cubans on tonight's news, you might think the revolution overthrew some sort of democracy.  As I recall, Fulgencio Batista was a militaristic kleptocrat who strode along arm in arm with the Mafia, catering to America's sleazier tastes with gambling, drugs, and prostitution.

The "freedom loving" Cubans who fled to the United States after the revolution never seemed to mind living under Batista: they were among those who shared in the regime's ill-gotten gains.  What pissed them off was losing their ill-gotten riches.  Well, they needn't have worried.  Unlike immigrants from Mexico or, even, Communist Eastern Europe, they got very special treatment.  Their new businesses and enterprises in South Florida were largely financed by US government agencies, including the CIA.  No wonder they like Republicans.

The poor, in Batista's Cuba, were no better off than the poor in Haiti.  After Castro, they got free schooling, free medical care, and other benefits of a socialist state.  Castro's communist ideology was unlikely to endear him to the USofA, of course.  If he'd set himself up as just another Latin American military dictator, he could have been attending White House dinners ever since.

Instead, he got fifty-five years of attempts to destabilize his government, from poisoning his cigars to the recent idiotic plots by USAID (which has very often been just another branch of the CIA.)   Now it's time to end the embargo.  We've normalized relations with China and Vietnam, and we're even working on Cambodia.  Cuba doesn't have to be a democracy to be a trading partner, and the Cuban people deserve some more investment in their economy.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Omnibus Budget Bill

Needless to say, I'm not happy.  I'm not terribly concerned about the enormous increases in permissible contributions to party committees, etc., because the system already is owned by the fat cats.  How much difference can the extra millions make?

The weakening of Dodd-Frank ("the Citigroup amendment"), on the other hand, concerns me a lot.  Inevitably, somewhere down the road, we'll end up bailing out banks gone wild via unsafe, speculative derivatives trading.

.  .  .

As an aside, I'm wondering when the current stock market bubble will burst.  All the profits major corporations are earning are not going into increasing productivity, but into mergers and acquisitions, and buying back their own stock.

When the loud and world resounding "POP" comes, of course, everybody not on Wall Street will regret the weakening of Dodd-Frank.

.  .  .

(The next day)
Okay, the Senate passed the Omnibus last night — passed it on the right, to be exact — and I've had a little more time to think about those contributions to party committees.  What really comes of that, it seems to me, is that the billionaire plutocrats gain a slight advantage over the multimillionaire plutocrats.  On the bright side, that may make them less inclined to give quite so much to the 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 groups.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Torture report

Reading the "letters" sections in the newspapers, you will discover that many people believe that revealing CIA torture of prisoners will lead to "retribution" against Americans.  Their thinking, to me, at least, is pretty strange.

Back in 1969 and 1970, the USofA authorized the "secret bombing" of Cambodia.  Does anybody  actually think the Cambodians didn't notice?  Only Americans and our allies were kept in the dark.

Early in 2011, hundreds of Taliban prisoners escaped from a prison in Kandahar Province.  Then, in 2013, Al Qaeda freed hundreds more from Abu Ghrab, in Iraq.  Does anybody think none of those prisoners were tortured?  In Afghanistan and Iraq, torture is no big news.

The people who had to be slapped in the face with the news — not just waterboarding, but torture by goddamned enema, don't live in the Middle East, they live here, in the USofA.

And a bunch of them have been elected to Congress.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eric Garner

Maybe you didn't read my post about Michael Brown, because it was buried in a pretty long post, and my daughter tells me nobody reads anything long.  Anyway, what I said, essentially, was that an ADA with about half an hour's experience can get a murder indictment against a moldy prune if she really wants to get it.  Whatever ADA did the Garner grand jury, pretty clearly, didn't want an indictment.

Reverend Al says District Attorney's offices are too closely tied to police departments.  Well, Reverend Al is right, this time, and a lot of other times too.  He's not always right, but he's a hell of a lot better than a stopped clock.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mubarak acquitted

It should come as no surprise to anybody that murder charges against Hosni Mubarak were dropped.  After all, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is considerably more murderous than Mubarak was, and one wouldn't want to set a bad precedent — would one?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving catch-up

There were a number of things I wanted to mention this month, but it's been a little hectic.  Anyway:

Obama acts on immigration
ICE is the largest government agency, and an extraordinary bureaucracy.  Its administrators and agents already have ignored more than a few clear "guidances" from the White House.  Who says they'll follow orders this time.  To wit, Obama has been saying for over a year that he only wants "criminals" deported, to which ICE responded by deporting any "criminal" they caught whose only crime was entering the country illegally.

Bibi and the "Jewish State"
Isn't it bad enough that we already have an "Islamic State," and to hear many on the right express it, a "Christian Nation?"  Arab Israelis already have diminished status in Israel.  The proposed "Jewish State" law would fully institutionalize that, along with the semi-formal apartheid that already exists.

Ferguson
Anybody who ever served on a Grand Jury knows that a prosecutor who makes even a minimal effort gets an indictment, because only the state's version of events is presented to the jurors.  In the Michael Brown case, apparently, the local prosecutor's version was that the police can do no wrong. Robert P. McCulloch, whose whole family was wrapped up with the police force, and whose policeman father was killed by a black man when McCulloch was twelve years old, never should have had jusrisdiction.  The conflicts of interest were just too great.

Chuck Hegel
Chuck's problem, as anybody who was paying attention must know, was that he just wasn't part of Obama's "inner circle," a very exclusive group who have the president's ear, but have not proven themselves especially adept at giving good advice.  Hegel is well out of it, but the Oval Office cabal will be with us for two more years.

Arming the Syrian "moderates"
Who's kidding whom?  All the rebels are intent on overthrowing Assad first and foremost.  They may even work together until he's gone, and only then get down to the business of exterminating each other.

Recip Tayyip Erdogan
The President of Turkey prefers to have Sunni extremists on his border than an independent Kurdistan.  Don't look to him for help in controlling the Islamic State (or in helping to secure the rights of Turkish women.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Keystone XL

The Keystone pipeline is a purely political controversy.  It doesn't much matter, economically, whether it happens or not — albeit, some environmental concerns may have some validity.  If constructed, the general professional perspective is that it will generate between 35 and 50 permanent jobs.  Here and there, some pipeslingers will have work for a year or two, but given current crude oil prices, constructing it is not worth the trouble.

Mary Landrieu, stuck in a probably doomed run-off election, will keep pushing it.  Obama can veto it without losing any support, and maybe gain a little more support from the greenies.  The big problem for Keystone is that oil prices have dropped so low that tar sands oil just can't compete.  Tar sands oil is just too expensive.

Clearly, Obama should use his veto, unless he's still idiotically trying for "across-the-aisle" reconciliation.  That won't happen, so let him screw them every way he can.  Payback's a bitch.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Deporter in Chief vs. "Friend of Latinos"

Barack Obama, whom I have come to sincerely dislike, has presided over more deportations than any previous President — and by a lot.  Latinos in the USofA, who voted overwhelmingly for Our President in 2012, have started to re-evaluate their support, so Our President now is promising Executive Actions to protect, perhaps, five million of the undocumented.  This is the same President, by the way, who told us he didn't think he had legal authority to do so — and not so long ago.

What can we expect of him?  Based on prior experience, we can expect he'll do as little as possible, while spouting as much "inspirational" bullshit as he can.  Will he insist on legal representation for the child immigrants from Central America claiming asylum but already being deported?  Not likely.  Not much matters to him except the "optics."

Okay, maybe now that the Democrats screwed up the midterms, he'll feel "liberated" to take some tough stances against the right wing crazies — but I'm not counting on it.  He spent too much time at the University of Chicago, home of the Hayekian homeboys, and I suspect he was infected.  May the ghost of John Maynard Keynes haunt him, reminding him that he was pretty much a pussy during the financial crisis, and since.  (Is "pussy" politically incorrect?  Sorry. My reference was to a little cat.)

.....

If the Democrats nominate Hillary in 2016, they'll be offering us just more Bill and Barack.  Let's not forget who teamed with Phil Gramm to overturn Glass-Steagle — not to mention who designed the first pro-corporate "health care reform" based on "free market" principles.  Some on the left are talking about nominating Robert Reich, who has a fantastic intellect.  Just the same, I don't think the USofA is quite ready to be led by a dwarf.  Maybe a woman.  Not a dwarf.

Elizabeth Warren, are you waiting for 2020?  I'm an old man, and I need somebody brilliant and articulate and inspiring and (sorry) kind of hot, NOW!  (I have such a crush on Elizabeth Warren!  She's my ideal woman.)

Anyway, I'm not happy — but when am I happy?  I want my new granddaughter to grow up in a caring, ethical environment.  I can't do much, but I'll do what I can.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

US/China "Climate Pact"???

Far be it from me to agree with Republican obstructionists, but the alleged "climate pact" I read about in the Times this morning sounds like — well, how do I put this? — shall we say, bullshit?

The Chinese, it seems, have agreed to stop increasing their carbon emissions sixteen years from now, in 2030.  The United States, as best I can tell, has agreed to just keep on keeping on with the steps in place right now — assuming the Koch brothers don't take over the entire government in 2016, and turn the USofA into New China.

Why did Obama and Xi even bother?  Did Obama feel he needed some kind of asshole "victory?"  Did Xi think he had to suggest to the Chinese that breathing, eventually, would no longer be quite so lethal?

Shall we say, bullshit?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Please! NOT Hillary!

We have had more than enough of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).  Moving the Democrats to the "middle" (into the clutches of Wall Street) may have seemed like "a good idea at the time," but that time, if it ever existed, certainly is over.

Obama has been nothing but Clinton in blackface.  In case you hadn't noticed, Obama actually is not black.  Maybe a lot of blacks may not have noticed that yet, but it's true.  Raised in a middle-class white family and educated in a series of hoity-toity white schools, he's no more black than that asshole friend of his, Arne Duncan (who went to private schools, but occasionally played basketball with so-called "brothers".)  I don't know if the low turnout of black voters in the midterms indicates they've figured out the "not so dark" secret or not, but it's a distinct possibility.

Regardless of whether she will be elected or not, Hillary will be a disaster for progressive Democrats.  There really are progressive Democrats, and they deserve a shot at the presidency, even though they quite possibly might lose.

We deserve a clear choice in 2016.  We deserve clear policy choices, not just "tired old lady" v. "hot shot right wing demagogue," or "safe favorite of the plutocrats not aligned with Hillary."

A pox upon all their houses.  I'm tired of casting protest votes.  Give me a real choice.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Midterms

Years ago, I might have been seriously upset by the outcomes of yesterday's elections.  Now, I don't really care.  Yes, I voted, but I later spent the night watching "Law and Order" reruns rather than election returns.

The problem is that the same crew of billionaire plutocrats — the 0.001 percent — not only get to mightily influence the outcomes of elections, they get to pick the candidates.  Nobody can even think about running for any major office without their financial backing.

According to Lawrence Lessig of Harvard, an ethicist who holds views that span the political spectrum, America has less ability to choose candidates than Hong Kong protesters, who object to a "Committee of 1200" picking their candidates.

It would be nice to get the money out of politics, but it won't happen.  In the USofA, money is politics.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kobani

It is not too difficult to figure out that Recip Tayip Erdogan is a sack of shit, doing his best to lead Turkey to becoming an Islamo-fascist state.  Granted, some of the former military dictatorships were not especially great, but at least they were secular — and the current "democratic" rule depends on rural voters who have as much brain power as Tea Party Mississippians.

Democracy doesn't work all that well when most voters are morons — and, usually, they  are.  Of course, the alternative (which is not, really, an alternative) is plutocracy.  So, that's what we've got.

Erdogan is in a tough spot regarding Kobani.  Since Turkey is a NATO member (dating from when the generals were in control), it sort of has to support the USofA, but maybe not all that much.  After all, the Kurds defending Kobani are mostly PKK, which the USofA obliged Turkey by naming it a terrorist group.  Now, we're parachuting in supplies to the PKK to help it fight the Islamic State.

To me, the Kurds are the only group deserving USofA support in the Middle East, PKK inclusive.  I wouldn't be unhappy if we took the PKK off the terrorist list, chucked Turkey out of NATO  (along with a bunch of Eastern Euopean countries that never should have been added) and just sent the Kurds vast amounts of money and munitions.

They'll get things straightened out, and become a reliable partner in the region.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ebola

I don't get it.  I don't get the panic, and I don't get the politicization.

Personally, I don't go around touching other people's bodily fluids, so I feel pretty safe.  I mean, if you see a pool of blood or vomit or diarrhea, are you going to stick your finger in?  Granted, the health care workers working with the infected are under greater threat, but as far as I know, none of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) workers in West Africa have been infected so far, and they've been the most aggressive health providers in the affected regions so far.

I've been giving twenty bucks a month to MSF for years, now.  I feel very virtuous, of course, but I'm still pissed off that the USofA is not directing money to MSF, which knows what the hell it's doing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

High School Football

There was an article in yesterday's Times about the arrest of seven high school football players from Sayreville, NJ, on charges of sexual assault on at least one fourteen-year-old freshman player out in the good old locker room.  The Times pussyfooted around a bit, but it seems that three of them are charged with anally raping the kid or kids.

Sports teams are kind of like prison — sex crimes are probably more about power than about sex.  The most amazing thing about this case is that a victim was willing to speak up, rather than just waiting a few years and relaying the abuse to some younger kid.  People blame the coach, but my guess is that the coach stayed out of the locker room for fear somebody might think he was a perv.

I'm generally against contact sports, and I'm against football more than all the others.  The combination of concussions and the sense of entitlement among players seems like more than a civilized society should be willing to accept — but then, who says we're civilized?  Maybe we should just bring back gladiatorial combat.  That way, half the assholes would wind up dead at the end of the "game."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hong Kong

The young protestors are blissfully unaware that democracy means nothing.  The plutocrats are in charge everywhere, and will continue to be in charge, no matter how candidates for office are selected.  Well, at least, none of them has been killed yet.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fucking stupidity

It seems, according to news sources, that some ridiculously large percentage of Republicans believe that Barack Obama is the Antichrist.  Really, you would think that might make them happy, because then the "end times" would be here, and they could all get sucked up to heaven in a giant godly slurp of "rapture."

How can you believe in "democracy" when so many people are so fucking stupid?  The big problem, it seems, is that stupidity is endemic.  The alternatives, needless to say, are worse.  Fuck them all.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Panic Attacks!


Ebola
Well, Dallas kind of screwed up, but I'm still not too terrified of an epidemic on this side of the Atlantic.  Now that the idiots have figured out that doctors and nurses really should talk to each other, and the CDC (not always perfect, but still pretty good) is involved, the USofA will get it worked out.  Getting it worked out in West Africa will be more difficult.

Beheadings
The latest terminology is "the group calling itself the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL."  I guess we don't want to offend the Saudis, whose state supported the Salafist, Wahabi ideology which was mainly responsible for the growth and financing of IS.  Now that we're producing more oil than the Saudis, though, maybe we could step on them a little harder.

Secret Service
I gather that a lot of black Americans think the SS (yes, the same acronym) is less committed to protecting their allegedly black president than they might have been to John McCain.  Personally, I think that assholes will be assholes, and that race is not a factor.  They're just incompetents.

Hong Kong
I am so afraid that those "Occupy" kids who are too young to remember Tiananmen will find themselves lying among the dead.  State Capitalism, I am inclined to believe, has to be worse than State Socialism — but, then again, maybe it's all just plutocracy.  It's always plutocracy.  Isn't It?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Privacy

Don't believe anything the big tech companies tell you about protecting your privacy.  Yes, I know, both Apple and Samsung now are offering encrypted email.  Great.  Google, especially if you're signed in, is recording every site you visit.  (I doubt they'll care if you visit my site. Nobody much cares who comes and goes.)

Go here.  Download Tor.  Stay (probably) safe from the NSA and whatnot.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Meanwhile, Back in Syria...

So we are told that Obama administration personnel are "vetting" rebel groups in Syria to discover which are "moderate" enough to arm and train.  That may be unnecessary.  Lately, it looks like Bashir al-Assad is doing it for them.  Leaving fighting the Islamic State to the US and its "coalition," Assad's air force has been concentrating its efforts on eliminating the regime's other enemies — notably the less radical Islamist groups.  (Incidentally, the only secularists in Syria side with Assad.)

All the USofA can accomplish in Syria and Iraq is stirring the pot, and the best course of action for the USofA is to get the hell out, and let the regional powers — who have the most to lose — sort things out for themselves.

Friday, September 19, 2014

UK still U

The Scots have saved themselves a lot of very major hassles by voting "No" on statehood, and even more hassles for Alex Salmond, who now gets to, sort of, retire.  They really needed their own currency if they were going independent, and eighteen months would not have been enough time to get that organized.  Also, they would have needed to negotiate a relationship with the EU, figure out their new relationship with not-so-Great Britain, etc., etc.  Oh, yeah, and what about NATO?

Salmond is not entirely out of the picture, I suspect.  Those last-minute, craven crumblings by Cameron still are likely to demand some negotiation, and I can't see Salmond just staying out of it.  The Scottish Nationalist Party will need a bit of charismatic leadership, and Salmond fits the bill.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Here We Go Again

Yes, those guys from the Islamic State are truly terrible.  As you may have gleaned from my previous post, I was not terribly impressed by the beheading of those two American journalists — nobody is a war correspondent except by personal choice.  There have been a lot of other beheadings, though.  Every time ISIL overran some Iraqi army position, they sorted out the Shi'a "heretics" and lopped their heads off.  They made pretty convincing attempts at genocide against the Yazidis and the Maronite Christians.  I suppose somebody ought to stop them.

Somehow, though, I don't think the USofA can manage the job.  Yes, I know — we were the ones who broke Iraq, so, supposedly, we bought it.  Maybe it's time, however, to toss the broken pieces in the trash and move on.

Right now, we're arming and training Shite militias that were trying to kill us five years ago.  We're looking for "moderate" Syrian militias to arm and train, although that requires stretching the term "moderate" to include quite a few extremists.  Sadly, we seem pretty inept at the arming and training business, as witnessed by the collapse of the Iraqi army.

Air strikes seem to be the only approach the American public is comfortable with at this stage of the game, and you can't use air strikes without killing a lot of innocents, and radicalizing their friends and relatives.  Let's face it: nobody over there likes us, or really wants our presence.

Politically, though, Obama has to do something, so he will.  But it won't work.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Those Dead Journalists

Disregarding the messiness, beheading strikes me as a rather humane means of execution.  I know it has to be very upsetting to family and friends of the victims, but if I had to choose between beheading and lethal injection in certain states of the USofA, I think the beheading might be far preferable.

What makes a person a journalist?  Both Sotloff and Foley were freelancers, selling their reportage to many different news outlets.  They enjoyed no worker benefits — not life insurance, nor health insurance, nor any formal backup when they got themselves into very serious trouble.  Blame the Islamic State by all means — it is the very definition of terrorism — but also blame the news media, the deprofessionalizing of reportage, and a media culture that encourages young people to toss themselves into extreme danger for a small chance of "success."

The photojournalists and videojournalists are in more peril than the print journalists, albeit more likely to be killed outright on the battlefield than captured and used as propaganda tools.  Reporters of all stripes need much more professional training if they will work in war zones, and the media should accept that responsibility.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Obama's Foreign Policy

Second guessing Our President on foreign policy seems to be the new national pastime, but none of the second-guessers seems to have an answer to the question, "Well, then what would you do?"  I sure don't.

McCain and Graham like to dance around like Yosemite Sam and sing their "Get tough" song, but really — invade Iraq again?  Go to war with Russia, perhaps?  Sometimes the options come down to few or none.

Arm and train the "moderates" in Syria?  First you'd have to find some, and you probably couldn't find enough to have any impact on the situation over there.  Apart from the Kurds, the Iraqis are pretty much worthless when it comes to fighting ISIL, and Haider al-Abadi looks to me like Nuri al-Maliki lite.  Okay, it would be very nice if the Kurds didn't have to rely on Soviet era weapons, but arming them with something better risks pissing off the Iranians and the Turks.  (The Iranians and the Turks?  No wonder Obama seems more than a little burnt out lately!)

How about arming and training the western Ukrainians?  It yet may happen, but didn't we fight enough proxy wars against Russia last century?  And think how successful those were!

As you know, I'm not a big fan of Barack Obama, but as far as foreign policy goes, I suggest he's muddling through as best he can — and no worse than anybody else could manage, under the circumstances.  Let's all just take a step back, and let him muddle.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Race in America

It's not pleasant to be black in America, especially if you happen to be young and male.  It's not even especially pleasant to be a Harvard educated, dark complected President of the United States raised in a middle class white household who won office with a ton of Wall Street money.  The die-hard racist elements in American society don't make any particular distinctions.

 Black Americans were jubilant when the Hawaiian was elected and re-elected.  It seemed like some sort of turning point.  It wasn't.


I suspect the biggest problem is that so many white people (and Asians as well) think young black men are just too damned scary.  George Zimmerman thought Trayvon Martin was so scary he just had to follow him and shoot him.  Police officer Randall Kerrick thought auto accident victim Jonathan Ferrell was so scary he just had to shoot at him twelve times, hitting him with ten bullets.  There are plenty of other examples, so we don't have to speculate on why police officer Darren Wilson just had to shoot Michael Brown six times — twice in the top of the head, suggesting that he might already have fallen down face first after the other four shots.

So why are young black men so scary?  Well, part of the answer is that a lot of them want to look scary.  They want to look like those thug rappers, perhaps, or they want to look scary so other people will just leave them the hell alone.  Maybe, sometimes, it works.

Sometimes, though, it doesn't.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Trouble Spots

Singar Mountain
Only rarely do I hear about a religious group I've never heard of before, so the Yazidis certainly caught my interest.  According to Wikipedia, they probably are a product of Middle Eastern syncretism, with aspects of Sufi, Zoroastrian, and other religious traditions.  Frankly, I don't think the author of the article knows very much, or has many dependable sources, since the Yazidis are supposed to be kind of secretive.

One thing we do know is that when confronted by the Islamic State with the proposition of "convert to Islam or die," they are greatly inclined to die.  Personally, I wouldn't fault anybody for a little hypocrisy when confronted with such a choice, but then I don't have any god to offend, much less a "Peacock Angel."  The alternative of "tribute," as in "the Koran, tribute, or the sword" (as they taught me in junior high school) apparently is unavailable to Yazidis, since a lot of orthodox Muslims (and some Christians as well) identify the "Peacock Angel" with the nefarious Shaitan (Satan), making them devil worshipers.

It seems that the recent military reconnaissance of Singar Mountain by United States forces, which reported that the state of emergency was over, only reconnoitered the north side of the mountain, where it was safe for helicopters: no problem there.  The south side, Yazidi voices tell us, is still a humanitarian catastrophe.

Eastern Ukraine

Putin's "humanitarian convoy," last I heard, was still on its way.  The International Red Cross was a bit confused as to whether or not it had blessed the operation.  Kiev had seized the crossing point Russia intended to use from pro-Russian forces; nobody knows what's in the trucks.

I have no faith in Putin, or in anything he says.  I have no faith in anything Plutocrat Poroschenko says.  I do, however, have concerns for the innocent people of Eastern Ukraine.  Ordinary people, just trying to live their everyday lives, do not deserve to be caught up in geopolitics — but, of course, they always are.

Ferguson, Mo.

Maybe there are more young black men committing crimes than young white men — I honestly don't know.  They certainly get arrested and jailed a lot more often, while young white men get a free ride.

What I do know is that if a cop is struggling with a kid for control of his hand gun, the kid doesn't wind up shot in the back from 35 feet away.

South Sudan

Nothing much has improved in South Sudan, and nobody is paying attention.  Pay attention!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hillary

I suppose you've heard about the Atlantic interview, where Hillary went all hawky and dissed Obama.  Personally, I'm not fond of either one of them, but I'm happier with Obama's foreign policy than Clinton's take.  Minimalism makes a lot of sense to me, after the past thirteen years.

So, I'm trying very hard to think of somebody who might present the Hill with a credible challenge in the Democratic primary.  I like Biden, but I don't think he could win.  I like Warren, but she says she won't run, and she's not a liar.  Still, I think we need a woman this time — I just can't think of whom.

Maureen Dowd, who shares my view of the Clintons (hyperpolitical shitheads), did a very nice "fuck you" column in today's Times.  Still, I don't think we could get Maureen Dowd to run.  Suggestions?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Islamic State? Jewish State?

Nobody in the USofA is especially happy with the Islamic State (formerly ISIS or ISIL).  Well, they're pretty nasty boys, especially when they encounter Christians, Shi'a, Abadis, and even Sunni Muslims who are not, at the very least, Salafist.  Somebody should be stopping them, but that asshole Nuri Kamal al Maliki, obviously, is out of his depth.

Personally, I think Kurdistan is the best bet for the USofA in that part of the world, even if it makes Erdogan fudge his underpants.  If nothing else, they're capitalists, and, at the moment, the pesh murga needs help.  It's still using ancient Soviet armament against the very latest US weapons looted from fleeing Iraqi alleged "troops."  Yes, I'm pro-Kurdistan.  No, I'm not a Kurd.

Personally, I think the very idea of an "Islamic State" is disgusting, but  I have no higher opinion of a "Jewish State."  Yes, I believe in the Holocaust, and I believe that Jews need a place they can be sure they won't be persecuted, but I don't believe a nation state should be founded around any religion.  States should be secular and diverse, so ideologues of whatever stripe find it more difficult to grab hold.  Think of those assholes who claim the USofA is a Christian country.  Kind of makes me sick.

So, no, I don't think the "two-state solution" ever is likely to work — and I'm sure Bibi, sensibly, shares my opinion on that matter, no matter how earnestly John Kerry babbles on.  That leaves Israel with two choices, pretty much Sophie-style: either continue the imperial occupation ad infinitum, with increasing international approbation; or fully integrate the Palestinians into Israeli society by becoming a truly secular state.

Me, I favor the One State Solution.  "But wait!" many will say, "The Palestinians will outnumber the Jews, take over Parliament, and where will the Jews be then?!"

Fear not, panicky ones.  The ultra-orthodox breed faster than the proverbial bunnies, and the real power — which is to say, the big money — will still be controlled by Jewish plutocrats.  We all know who's really in charge of our secular "democracies," and it sure ain't us.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sexual Assault on Campus

I don't get it. Rape, and other varieties of sexual assault, are felonies.  Such crimes should be the purview of the police, not some stupid college faculty committee.  Students who are assaulted should go directly to the police — not the campus police, but the real police.  If they are so misguided as to go to college authorities instead of the real police, the college should bring in the real police, and then get out of the way.  Why should Congress have to enact special legislation to deal with nationally recognized felonies?

Frequently, it seems, the felons are frat boys and/or athletes.  Money and reputation are involved, so  colleges are hesitant to do anything at all.  Well, sexual predators are present at all levels of society.  Let's just have the cops do their jobs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Religion and Ethics

I like to watch the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on PBS.  In the real world, though, there seems to be far too much of the former and a paucity of the latter.  If there ever might be a better time for mass conversions to atheism, I can't imagine when it might be.

For starters, Pakistan is a sinkhole, all on its own.  With honor killings, prosecutions for blasphemy, persecution of the Ahmadi sect, and more, its efforts to get control over extremists in North Waziristan don't count for much.

It seems likely that the perverts who captured and killed the three Israeli boys actually were not members of Hamas, but that didn't stop the Israelis from conducting a pogrom against anybody associated with Hamas on the West Bank, primarily to prevent a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.  Bibi needs an enemy to stay in power.  On the other hand, the killers of that Muslim boy certainly were religious fanatics.  That (in addition to the pogrom and the need to improve their reputation for political purposes) inspired Hamas to launch their rather inept rocket attacks on Israel.

Boko Haram is yet another crazy Islamic cult, making an unstable part of the world even less stable.  Then again, in the Central African Republic, the Christians may be more bloodthirsty than the Islamists.  Moving up to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the crazy animists are attacking medical relief workers trying to address the the Ebola epidemic.  Well, their shamans can't be too much less effective than Doctors Without Borders as far as cures go, but MSF probably stands a better chance of containing the outbreak.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is solidly behind Putin.  Buddhists (yes, Buddhists) are killing Muslims in Cambodia.  Let's not even mention (okay, I'll mention it) relationships between India and Pakistan.  Back here in the USofA, the "Family Values" crew seem to be losing on gay marriage, but the 2011 post-census redistricting has offered them definite advantages, not least in states like North Carolina and Virginia.

What the hell.  I'm old, and pretty soon I'll be dead, and Jesus won't be there to welcome me home.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Gaza explained

Find the most cogent explanation of what happened to create the crisis in Gaza here.  It's brilliant.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Annus horribilis: part two (children's edition)


More Gaza
Four little boys went out to play;
Along came a bomber and blew them away.
The news that inspired that couplet was in the Times this morning.  By the time I got home this afternoon, and despite a six-hour cease fire, three more Palestinian children were dead.  Well, when the announced ground invasion begins, one would hope that Israeli troops, from ground level, will better be able to differentiate people who are four feet tall from people who are significantly taller.

The Nigerian Girls

Boko Haram grabbed a whole lot of Nigerian girls from a school up in north-eastern Nigeria.  Rumor has it that most of them have "escaped," but it's hard to say because Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan is not especially "transparent."

Granted, Boko Haram is a lot crazier than most other crazy Islamist groups.  People who get too addicted to their religions always are especially dangerous.

Migrant Kids

I am outraged that people across the United States are protesting having migrant children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador taking refuge in their communities.  Parents don't send their kids on enormous journeys, with pretty scetchy adults in charge, unless the conditions at home are immanently lethal.  I welcome those children to my neighborhood.  Probably, I could squeeze three or four into my miniscule home for a while.  The dog would love it.

If Obama expedites the extradition of those children to their home countries, my low esteem for him will drop even lower.  As usual, I'm pissed off.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Annus horribilis: part one


I don't want to read the newspaper, lately.  Nevertheless, let's look at some disparate pieces.

Afghanistan

Yes, of course the ballot boxes were stuffed.  Maliki did it in 2010, and he's done it again, now.  For some not especially obscure reasons, the USofA encouraged Maliki to get away with it in 2010.  That, some of us now can see, was a big mistake.

Iraq

The creation of a parliamentary system, rather than a typically authoritarian Middle Eastern presidential system, might be a step in the right direction.  Just the same, expect an independent Kurdistan, and good luck to them.

Probably there is too much billionaire opposition to the "Islamic State" for it to make substantial headway in the near or not so near future, but who knows?  One dreadful shithead.  Another dreadful shithead.  Go figure.

Gaza

Since, according to Israeli authorities, no Israelis actually have died from the Palestinian rocket attacks, and close on two hundred Gaza civilians have died in Israeli air strikes, it seems like somebody might be overreacting.

Israel attributes the missile attacks to Hamas, but provides no proof.  Islamic Jihad seems a more likely suspect, but the potential reconciliation of Hamas and the PLO is a greater threat to Israel's apartheid state.

.....

There will be more to come; and soon, I hope.  I will do my best to smack myself out of this sad, soporific suspension of distaste and remind myself that, even if I am likely to die before any of this is resolved, I still can try to provide my particular prospectus.

I like it.  Do you?


Friday, July 4, 2014

The Supremes


Abortion protest

In unanimously striking down the Massachusetts 35 foot protest barrier around the entrances to its abortion providers, the Court defended the free speech of protestors — and free speech should be defended.  The Court also suggested that harassment and physical abuse continue to be against Massachusetts law, and that those laws should continue to be enforced.

It may be wise for the Massachusetts legislature to have a fresh look at its laws defining the nature of harassment, and making certain that it's police forces (especially in Boston, where the worst of the crazies congregate) are trained and willing to hook up verbal abusers of vulnerable women.

Agency Fee

The Court carved out a "narrow" exception allowing certain employees represented by labor unions to stop paying for services provided to them by unions — essentially allowing them to become "free riders."

One obvious solution is to deny the deadbeats the benefits of the union contract, and force them to negotiate and fight employer abuses on their own.  How would the conservative Justices vote on that one?

Hobby Lobby

Corporations no longer are just "persons" who may enter into contracts while protecting shareholders with limited liability.  Since the Citizens United decision, they are "persons" who may dump unlimited funds into election campaigns.  Now a corporation can be a "person" who has a "religious belief."  Gag me with a spoon!

If one of the right-wing Justices were suddenly to drop dead while Obama still is President, I would not be among the mourners.  (NOTE:  This is not a suggestion that somebody assassinate one of those assholes, so please don't blame me if it happens.  If anybody reads this blog, it's unlikely that she or he owns a gun, or knows how to construct a bomb, or grow anthrax or whatever.  I certainly don't.)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dead Boys

Three Israeli boys were hitchhiking home from Yeshiva.  They caught the wrong ride, and ended up dead.  Bibi, as usual, blamed everybody he didn't like, and punished them all.  A bunch of young stone throwers found their stones met with bullets.  Then, an Arab teen — who probably wasn't even hitchhiking — was kidnapped and killed.  Revenge, people said, as if shooting the stone throwers was not enough.

Bibi "disapproved" the reprisal killing, even though he himself had created the atmosphere that made it pretty much inevitable.

Those three Israeli boys, it seems, took a ride with a couple of Palestinians — now conveniently disappeared.  Clearly, they were bad guys — but, most likely, they didn't "represent" Hamas.  Most likely, those Israeli boys had taken rides from Palestinians before, and never had a problem.

Nobody wants dead boys, but nobody seems to want a two-state solution either.  Bibi seems to want to continue the apartheid state, so Israel can continue to be the "Jewish" state.  Maybe a two-state solution is the wrong answer, though.  Maybe Israel should be the model for the multi-ethnic democracy that isn't working in Iraq or Syria.

Maybe Israel is the last, best hope.  Most likely, though, it's just hopeless.

Friday, June 27, 2014

ISIS or ISIL?

So, how do you translate "al-Sham?"

There is a real difference between "Syria," a modern state, and "the Levant," a nineteenth century translation of "al-Sham" that included most of Iraq, greater Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel.  Recently (on YouTube, of course,) "al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham" cleared it up for us.  They're talking Levant.  Their intended caliphate includes pretty much all of of the aforementioned states.

Poor Jordan. Poor Lebanon, only recently emerged from so many years of internal strife.  Poor everybody else, if Israel decides it has to use its nukes.

Now and in the future, when I use the term "ISIS," the final "S" stands for "al-Sham."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fucking Egypt

A couple of days ago, John Kerry was in Cairo "reconfirming" America's "relationship" with Egypt.  Yesterday, the al-Sisi courts sentenced three al-Jazeera journalists to seven years in prison on trumped up charges without even bothering to trump up any evidence.

So, what's up?  Well, as we all know, we have to maintain our "relationship" with fucking Egypt to maintain our "relationship" with fucking Israel.  Israel, at the moment, is using the matter of its three missing teenagers to destroy the remaining Hamas presence in the West Bank.  We're told that the "evidence" of Hamas responsibility will be produced later this week, but it seems it has not been thoroughly "trumped" yet.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Mess in Iraq

Saddam Hussein was dreadful, but Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has been a catastrophe.  His virtual elimination of Sunni Muslims from the Iraqi government, beginning with his targeting the now exiled Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashemi immediately following the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, left Sunni Iraqis with no political power and no way to address grievances.  Add to that his increasing authoritarianism, and civil war looked inevitable.  ISIS is merely the precipitating factor.

Those currently insisting that Obama "should have" left some American troops in Iraq conveniently forget that Maliki refused to sign the status of forces agreement that would have permitted that.  It was clear at the time that Maliki wanted the United States out of Iraq, so he could more easily pursue his sectarian goals.

Now Maliki wants Obama to send air power to help him fight off the ISIS rebels, but without dependable American spotters on the ground, air strikes are more likely to kill hapless civilians than rebel fighters.  Old Baathists are joining up with the ISIS forces,  Shi'a militias are forming, and QUDS guardsmen from Iran already may be in Baghdad.  Quite frankly, any American involvement at this point seems absurd.

I'm waiting for the Kurds to spread out from their autonomous region, perhaps even into Syria, and declare an independent Kurdistan.  Their pesh murga is the best fighting force in the region, and the ongoing chaos in Iraq may be their best chance to have the homeland that has been their goal for many years.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Eric Cantor


Eric Cantor's "stunning" loss to Tea Partier David Brat really is not all that stunning.  After the 2010 census, Cantor's dependably Republican district was further gerrymandered to make it even more Republican and more conservative.  For Cantor, that may have backfired.

Brat's campaign issue was immigration, where Cantor had let a tiny glimpse of light shine through between his position and the brick wall of the hardest of the hard right.  "We all don't care much for furriners in these parts."

Well, then tell me, Jim Bob: how do you feel about the Jeeeeewwwwwws?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Some Catch-up


Bowe Bergdahl

No, he wasn't a hero.  Also, he wasn't a traitor.

How emotionally disturbed does a young man have to be to walk off a base in a very active war zone, leaving his weapon, armor, and night vision goggles behind?  Maybe it was some sort of psychotic episode.  Maybe it was moral outrage.  Maybe the two are not mutually exclusive.

The five Taliban "leaders," out of the loop for thirteen years, are not likely to present much of a problem to the USofA.  Their successors will not be inclined to step aside to accommodate their return.  Maybe they are propaganda victories, but I suspect their only other use will be as suicide bombers — and I'm pretty sure they won't be volunteering any time soon.  Suicide bombing is for kids.

The Palestinian "Merger"

Bibi is jumping up and down like Yosemite Sam.  I am amused, of course.  Bibi wants the USofA to end all contact with the Palestinians now that Hamas has reconciled with the PLO, but that's not happening.  Abu Masem is a sly old bastard, and I think he's making some good moves right now.

Obama's "War on Coal"

Let the wild rumpus begin!  Okay, it's not Obama's war on coal — the real war is being waged by the natural gas industry.  Natural gas is a much cheaper means to generate electricity than, at the very least, Appalachian coal.  Montana's coal is even cheaper than that, but mostly exported to China, where it brings higher prices.

I guess the "War on Coal" might have some small impact on the midterm elections, but I don't think it will matter all that much.  Employment in the coal industry already has been decimated by natural gas and heavy equipment mountaintop removal.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Elections

It is kind of pathetic how Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi (aka Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and some other transliterations from the Arabic) extended the voting period because hardly anybody was bothering to vote for him.  Well, that's what happens when everybody knows the outcome in advance.  (Hell, I could be hanging out at the souq with my homies, drinking qasab.  Why bother?)

Chocolate King Petro Olekseyevich Poroshenko seems to be the new leader of Ukraine.  Okay, he's just another oligarch, but he seems to be pro-EU and his main factory is in Russia.  Go figure.

Europeans don't much bother to vote in elections for the European Parliament, but the populist anti-EU crew seems to have been more active than in the past.  Except for Hungary, I don't see the right-wing crazies winning any governments in Europe — albeit, adopting the Euro so early was a total screw-up.  It is easy to understand why, say, the UK and Germany don't want their labor markets overrun by Romanians and such like, but when you make your bed, you have to lie in it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hackers

I was interested to read that five Chinese army officers have been indicted by the Justice Department for penetrating the computer networks of American corporations, presumably stealing technological secrets and whatnot.  Then I thought about the whatnot.

If you can penetrate a company's system, you should be able to gather information that is, potentially, more valuable than a diagram of the next great widget.  You can discover when that widget will be brought to market, and the impact it may have on the price of that company's stock.

If Chinese hackers can do it, I imagine more local hackers can do it as well, opening up a whole new realm of insider trading.  If the Chinese army can do it, so can Global Octopus Investment Bank.  I am guessing that the system is more rigged than ever.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Net Neutrality

I am not too concerned about Netflix paying more to broadband carriers so it's programs don't stop to buffer all the time.  Presumably, Netflix customers will pay more, and it may take a few extra seconds for my three or four readers to access this blog.  Big deal.

The real problem is that half of the country (including my half) has absolutely no choice of broadband providers, and the other half has either two or none at all.  Doesn't our government give a damn about monopolies anymore?

Some problems may best be solved by nationalizing them.  Well, it won't happen here.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Stuff


Death in Oklahoma

If Clayton Lockett was guilty of the crime of which he was convicted, nobody deserved "cruel and unusual punishment" more than he did.  On the other hand, if we really object to "cruel and unusual punishment," he got screwed.

I wonder how many death penalty nominees don't have a usable vein.  I'm guessing there are quite a few.  I guess putting them out in front of ten or fifteen sharpshooters aiming at their hearts (one, traditionally, but not necessarily accurately, shooting a blank) is just too brutal for modern sensibilities.

If you really want to kill them, I suggest, just fucking kill them.  A single shot to the brain, delivered by the fucking governor, should do the trick.

The Climate Change Report

Why do Republicans deny human involvement in climate change?  The usual answer: money.

Exxon-Mobil, Anadarko Petrolleum, Marathon Petroleum, Haliburton, and every major coal company give almost exclusively to Republican candidates.  Oh, and let us not forget Koch Industries!

The Minimum Wage

I don't believe that anybody working full-time should have to depend on SNAP (aka food stamps).  Raising the minimum wage pushes wages higher for all lower-wage workers, and if it means the loss of the dollar menu at Micky D's, who cares?  Eaters of burgers and fries will be able to afford half a buck more for their carbs and grease.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Polio and the CIA


Polio is back.  It almost was gone — almost extinct — but it's back.

The epicenter is Pakistan, where health workers vaccinating children are victims of Islamist attacks.  The problem, it seems, is that health workers vaccinating children against polio probably were working as CIA informants in the search for Osama bin Laden.

Neither the Obama Administration nor the CIA has refuted those accusations.  Most likely, the accusations are accurate.  Most likely, the USofA has sacrificed the health and the lives of who knows how many children for the sake of killing one man in hiding.

The informants could have been selling leather-bound Korans, or doing market research for some mass producer of chapatis, or anything else.  Why polio?  Who gave the okay?  It's dreadful.  It's horrible.

Me, I'd call it a war crime.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Supremes on public prayer


By the usual vote of 5 to 4, the Supremes affirmed that the town of Greece, New York, can continue to intone Christian prayers as a prelude to town meetings.  Me, I couldn't care less.

I don't see why some sucker, babbling to his imaginary master, does me or any other atheist any damage.  Let them babble on.  Town meetings tend to be morons babbling to morons — and since morons are a large part of the population, and no supernatural father figure is listening, much less striking the rest of us down, why stop them?

Let them babble on.  The court seemed to infer that secularists could apply to do the invocations. blah blah blah, but what in hell would they say?  Me, I have nothing.  Well, maybe this:

"Dear Nothing:  While I sincerely believe that nothing will result from this invocation, I will do it just for the sake of being a pain in the ass to the many Christians and the rare Jew who usually invoke here.  Uh...  well...  I guess that's good enough.  Bye."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On and on...


When the world gets especially depressing, as it is now, it is very hard for we chronic depressives to update our blogs.  I guess it's time for more "short subjects."

Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling

Two racists in the news, one a hero to Fox commentators and the other a recipient of awards from the NAACP, are a lot less depressing than some of the other shit going on.

Bundy has stolen over a million dollars in grazing fees from the American public over the past ten years, but because he's stolen it from the government, it was okay by Fox.  When he started blowing off about how blacks would be better off in slavery, Fox thought it best to back off.  Oops!

Sterling, who changed his name from Tokowitz, probably is a self-hating Jew as well as a racist.  Well, who cares?  It's just sports, after all, and the NBA has kicked him to the curb.  It took a little too long for the NAACP to suspend his latest recognition after the shit hit the fan, but he'd given the group a hell of a lot of money.  Gag me with a spoon.

Apartheid

John Kerry's use of the work "apartheid" was right as rain.  All Mahmoud Abbas has to do is dissolve the Palestinian Authority, and leave Israel in total control.  That would be apartheid, no matter what AIPAC has to say about it.

Ukraine

Honestly, I'm not sure why the Kiev "authorities" should have any more authority than than the pro-Russian "groups" in the east.  Neither bunch was elected, and they're both occupying government buildings.

That is not to say that the Yanokovich kleptocrats were especially legitimate, given how they  looted a couple of billion bucks from a country that didn't have it to spare.  Well, money is money, and nothing else much matters.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Odds and Ends


McCutcheon

Personally, I couldn't care less how many $5200 contributions fat cats pass around to Congressional candidates.  $5200 is chump change, and I'd rather see it publicly donated than filtered anonymously through a  501(c)(4).

Affirmative Action

Also, I couldn't care less whether or not the Obama children or the grandchildren of Stanley O'Neal get preference for college admission.  Let the top schools tap their endowments and bring in students, of whatever race, who never could afford to attend a top school otherwise.  The poor will be overrepresented by blacks and Latinos, but if the Ivy League can pull in some unemployed West Virginia miner's kids, that's great.

Iraq and Afghanistan

Elections do not mean a country is democratic.  In classically corrupt Iraq and Afghanistan, it's pretty obvious.  In the United States, it's less obvious, but just as true.

Friday, April 11, 2014

More Short Subjects


 Ukraine

Russian troops at the border!  NATO jets patrolling the Baltic states!  The Donetsk People's Republic!  Be afraid!  Well, don't be that afraid unless you're an Ukrainian who soon will be living with IMF imposed austerity measures while paying more for Russian natural gas.

All I see is a lot of posturing.  There is no way in hell Russia and NATO will slug it out physically over some antiquated manufacturing plants and wheat fields.

India

It looks like Narendra Modi's BJP party will be pushing the Gandhi family's Congress party aside in the current election cycle, despite Modi's previously undisclosed wife and that little matter of the slaughter of Muslims up in Gujarat back in 2002.  Will Modi govern as the consummate capitalist, the Hindu nationalist, or some combination of the two?  We'll wait and see.

Speaking of Gujarat, I like to point out to people that Muslims often are victims as well as perps (and not only to each other.)  In the Central African Republic, the Christians seem to be the real crazies, for example.  Then there's Cambodia, where the Buddhists are the bad guys.  Then again, there's Palestine.  'Nuff said.

Flight 370

I've read that the missing Malaysian airliner has done more for CNN's ratings than anything since Bush bombed Baghdad.  I will admit I'm curious to know what actually happened (my personal crazy hypothesis involves hacking the airliner's software), but sometimes it happens that you just don't get to know what you want to know.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Short Subjects


The Ryan Budget

Evil.  What else is there to say?

Okay, there's a little more to say.  Ryan claims that eviscerating SNAP and turning Medicare and Medicaid into block grants to the states will generate enormous economic growth.  Needless to say, even he knows he's wrong.  He's not stupid.  He's just evil.

The Supremes

The most recent decision in favor of plutocracy (McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission) really does not do too much more to empower the oligarchs, because they already had all the power.  On the other hand, it makes the very richest of our plutocrats a bit more powerful than the others — and to that I say, "So what?"

If Clarence Thomas (like so many black men of his age) dropped dead tomorrow, it probably wouldn't matter.  Obama would feel obliged to nominate a "moderate," and what the hell good is that?  (Even the ACLU seems to believe that money equals speech.)

Andrew Cuomo

If I had Mario Cuomo's personal email address, I would advise him to slap his boy around a bit.  Here in New York, it's pretty obvious that Andrew is pursuing the Clinton (Bill, mostly) route to the White House (which mostly involves right turns.)

Andy-Boy has been fucking over Bill DeBlasio (that shameless liberal) while sucking up to Wall Street and the hedge fund managers who no longer have any real limits on how much they can funnel to his eventual campaign.  I wouldn't vote for him if he were running against Rush Limbaugh.  (No, I wouldn't vote for Rush.  I guess I'd go Green again, for all the good that does.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wrapping up March

It's been a pretty depressing month.  That mudslide out in Oso, Washington, is heartbreaking, and every developer who built a house in that known danger area should be financially wiped out.  It won't happen, of course.

Then, there was the Malaysian Airlines flight.  I can't pretend to have any clue as to what happened, albeit I suspect depressurization had some role — but, then, what do I know?  In both Washington and Peking, there are hundreds of people suffering, wondering what became of their loved ones.

As usual, though, there was more crap.

Crimea

It's part of Russia again, and won't be undone.  In the meanwhile, Ukraine is a mess, economically, and probably about to get worse, thanks to the IMF.  Look forward to shitloads of austerity, Ukrainians.  It's been six years of hell for Greece, and it will be worse for you.  Maybe you can overcharge the Crimeans for water, and make the Russians absorb some of the pain.

Israel and Palestine

Abbas will not agree that Israel is a "Jewish State," because that will accept the second-class status of Arab-Israeli citizens.  I no longer believe in the "two-state solution," if I ever did.  It's time for Israel, the settlements, and the rest of the West Bank to become a single state, with equal rights for all.  The Hassidim and the Arabs can compete to see who will reproduce more like the proverbial rabbits to see who stays in control.  Too bad for the secularists, but that's how the sperm splatters.

Barack and Francis

Okay, they've met, and sort of seem to agree that some degree of income redistribution is needed.  The big difference (apart from differences regarding abortion and birth control) is that Obama's perspective is political and the pope's interest is moral.  (My interest, by the way, is sociological.)

Greece

Supposedly, Greece now has a balanced budget.  Unfortunately, it still has a 25% unemployment rate.  If it experiences any GDP "growth," ordinary Greeks won't see any of it.

More depressing crap.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Senator and the CIA

Dianne Feinstein is profoundly pissed.  As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she has loyally defended the interests and reputations of the CIA and NSA for years.  No more.

The Committee's investigation into the abuses of the Bush-Cheney years has produced a report that probably would never have been made public.  On the off chance that it might have been made public, CIA operatives hacked into the computers used by Senate staffers and removed some documents the CIA stupidly provided in the first place — most notably, an in-house report on rendition and torture asserting that nothing useful ever came out of such practices.

Now that Feinstein has gone public, however, there is a slight chance that the Senate report — or at least an executive summary — may be released.  Personally, I'd rather see the CIA's in-house report, but you take what you can get these days.  (Well, maybe somebody will send it to Wikileaks.)

Edward Snowden is a hero.  Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning is a hero.  Certainly, some CIA staff and Bush-Cheney personnel (including, perhaps, Bush and Cheney) belong in jail.  Just don't expect too much of "Professor of Constitutional Law" Barack Obama.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

More Ukraine (groan!)

Ukraine, with or without Crimea, is screwed.  Its tiny economy is pretty much on a par with that of Greece, and the IMF can't wait to get in there and impose austerity.  Except for the usual plutocrats, Ukrainians are going to suffer.

So, think about it: if you lived in Crimea, would you be more likely to go for a Russian bailout with continued cheap natural gas, or a whole lot of pain?  Personally, I think I might go with the dreadful Mr. Putin over the parsimonious Ms. Merkel.

Do the "nationalists" in Kiev understand how hooking up with the EU will make Ukrainian poverty so much more obvious to the Ukrainian people?  Yes, much of the blame can be cast on Yanukovych, but it's unlikely that replacing one group of corrupt assholes with another will do much good.

In the meanwhile, the media are not paying enough attention to Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, the CAR, or other places where people are in a hell of a lot more trouble than Crimea.  Pretty clearly, the Russians are going to keep Crimea this time around, the (very) Light Brigade of the USofA and Europe notwithstanding.

Friday, March 7, 2014

After the putsch

I wish I could get away from Ukraine, but that seems unlikely at the moment.  Granted, Yanukovych was a moron, a kleptocrat, and an ineptocrat (I just made that up) as well.  Just the same, it seems pretty obvious that the ouster of Yanukovych was not especially constitutional.

I'm calling the uprising a putsch because "coup d'etat" seems a little too Latinized to me.  I do not think all the "nationalists" are, as Putin would have it, fascists, but I can't be sure of the actual proportion.  Europe is full of fascists these days, so who knows?

The West supports the new government in Ukraine because the friend of my (kind of) friend is (kind of) my friend — and the alternative is (Cold Warriors may gasp now) Russia.  Whatever.  If the Crimeans are dumb enough to want to return to Russian control, I'm inclined to let them have self-determination.  Would they do better as a somewhat more autonomous region of Ukraine?  Given the crappy economic situation Ukraine is in these days, Russia might be the better choice.  Ukraine's current "leaders" already are discussing the kinds of austerity measures they'll be taking to satisfy the IMF.  (Think Greece.)

Clearly, Obama doesn't want to look any more like a wimp than he already does, and the more traditional Republicans want to cast him in that light and find ways to puff out their chests like robins in the springtime — but for all concerned, the best bet is just to let Russia re-absorb Crimea.  Russia already controls Crimea with their military/naval bases, so what's the big difference?

There is no way to know if a new Ukrainian government will be any less inept nor any less corrupt than the Yanukovych regime — nor any less inept nor any less corrupt than the Putin regime — but I think it's for Crimeans to decide which is the lesser of two evils.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Options for Crimea?

The Crimean Parliament has moved up its plebiscite to about ten days from now, presumably so that nobody gets a lot of time to think about it.  The boys (and maybe a girl or two) are hoping the Russian speakers will just go for rejoining Russia, and Russia can maintain that "the will of the people" justifies re-annexation.

The other choice, aside from rejoining Russia, will be remaining in Ukraine with more autonomy than Crimea already enjoys — and that autonomy is not insignificant.  Crimeans who don't want to put up with Putin, even among the majority Russian speakers, just might vote that way (but who will be monitoring the vote?)  Funny, though, there's no way to choose independence.  (Think Kosovo.)

Okay, there won't be a hell of a lot of independence in Crimea no matter how the vote goes — not with those Russian military bases there.  So why in hell is Putin making such a big deal out of what is, for Russia, essentially nothing.  The bases will stay, whatever transpires.  The fleet will stay, if only because it pumps a few extra rubles into Sevastopol.

I read the Times this morning (as always), and I think it may have been devoting a few too many column inches to Ukraine.  Granted, not much else was going on.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Crimean Crisis

I cannot pretend to have any idea of what has been passing through the head of Vladimir Putin lately, but if he took off his shirt and rode into eastern Ukraine on a horse, I would not be especially surprised.  In the meanwhile, though, I figured I could point out a few things that are getting scant notice in the media.

It was during the Crimean War that the 600 rode into the "valley of death," because "someone had blundered."  So much for early history: fast forward to 1954.  That was the year that Nikita Krushchev gave the Ukrainian SSR "power" over the peninsula, not that it much mattered, because they all were SSRs anyway.  When the Soviet Union decomposed, there were some problems working out the differences between the majority Russian Crimea and the rest of Ukraine.

Hence, Crimea is a "semi-autonomous" region, hosting Russian naval bases and, so it seems, some ground forces flown in for the occasion.  If it became entirely autonomous (that is, independent), Ukraine would lose most of its major ports — not that it's exporting much, except to Russia.

Ukraine's most significant geopolitical importance is as a place where Russian petrochemical pipelines cross over to the rest of Europe.  Since a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine would inevitably shut down those pipelines, it would create problems for everybody outside the Persian Gulf.  Russia's economy, already in bad shape, depends on commodity exports.  Without oil and gas exports, it would collapse.  Western Europe (including Germany) would slide back into recession.

It would not be such a bad thing if the new (and mostly illegitimate) government of Ukraine let Crimea have its independence following the plebiscite the Crimean leadership is sponsoring.  If they wanted "pan-European" trade, it could be done by rail.

Well, at least the Ukrainians are not killing each other — okay, not much — as compared to ethnic/language/racial groups in other parts of the world.  Yes, Obama will take shit for "doing nothing," but nothing seems like the best alternative right now.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ukraine

It occurs to me that I don't know the first thing about those young men bouncing paving blocks off the heads of Ukrainian policemen.  Are they the same protestors who started the peaceful demonstrations months ago, upset by Viktor Yanakovych's backing away from closer ties with the rest of Europe; or are they, as Vladimir Putin suggested, "right-wing elements" — to wit, Nazis.

It wouldn't be the first time Ukraine had Nazis — and all of Europe is developing ultra-right parties who might  be described as Nazis.  There's the Front National in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, Geert Wilders' Freedom Party in the Netherlands and that other Freedom Party in Austria, the Northern League in Italy, the NPD in Germany, and more, even in socially liberal Scandinavia.  Just because Putin said it doesn't automatically make it a lie.

Okay, Putin is a truly terrible person.  So is Yanokovych, I suspect.  That doesn't mean the cop killers aren't truly terrible persons as well, escalating the violence.  They have guns, Molotov cocktails and, probably, too much testosterone.  The American media should not be carried away in a gush of hero worship.

As for the United States doing something about what's happening in Ukraine, I don't see the likelihood as any better than the United States doing something in Syria.  It's time to accept the fact that we can't just walk in someplace and do something.  The last time that worked was World War II.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Syria

I don't imagine anybody is surprised that the Syrian "peace talks" failed.  Syria is a mess.

Now the Obama administration is being pressed to "do something," but it's very unclear whether anything at all can be done.  The Free Syrian Army is a joke; ISIS is operating across a completely porous Iraqi border; al Nusra, the al Qaeda affiliate al Qaeda still recognizes, is not up to defeating Assad's forces, especially if it has to simultaneously fight off ISIS; Assad has been strengthening his position, backed by Hezbollah, the Iranian QUDS force, and a lot of heavy armament from Russia.

Clearly, Americans have no stomach for military action after losing both in Iraq and, soon, Afghanistan.  We might give the Saudis the go-ahead to provide more advanced weapons to rebel groups, but knowing the Saudis, the weapons will wind up in the hands of jihadis.

The only positive contribution by the United States I can imagine is a broad increase in humanitarian aid for the vast numbers of refugees in Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Lebanon — but providing that aid should not involve any branch of the armed forces.  Given how the Agency for International Development has had close ties to the CIA throughout its history, AID also might be a bad choice.

The best bet would be to channel additional aid through organizations already on the ground, like the Red Crescent and Doctors Without Borders.  Nobody in the Middle East wants any more Americans wandering around.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Amazing Debt Ceiling Resolution?

I suppose we might say "thank you" to John Boehner for calling the vote on a "clean" bill to increase the debt ceiling, but that might be giving him a little too much credit.  Another bout of craziness certainly would not have helped Republicans in the midterm elections, and the Republicans who joined Democrats to give us a clean bill either were in super-safe seats or had announced their retirement at the end of this Congressional session.

In the meanwhile, the crazies can rant and rage against Boehner to whip up their even crazier base, but I don't expect the Speakership will be in danger.  Attention span among the true crazies is not all that long, and they are easily distracted (by Fox News.)

The evil Obama might have been happier with another threatened debt default and, perhaps, even another credit downgrade (by a different ratings agency.)  Am I a bit cynical?

You betcha.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Raising the Minimum Wage

Think of it like this: you own a business.  How many workers are you going to hire?  Too many?  Too few?  Of course not.  You'll go for the "Goldilocks" point.  You'll want "just right."  You don't want too few to keep the customers content, nor so may that they're out back smoking dope when you're not around.

Perhaps you own a fast food joint — a franchise.  The company tells you what to charge and what to pay.  The minimum wage goes up — so what does the company do?

It either lets you pay your workers the new minimum wage, raise your menu prices, and stay in business, or it lets you go out of business, and lose whatever profits you earn for it.  What's more likely?

So the dollar menu is up to a buck and a quarter.  Will you lose customers?  Maybe.  The ten-year-old's allowance hasn't gone up, but your own workers, and workers employed by other sleazebags, now can afford to pay the buck and a quarter.  They pay it.

You're still in business.  The only difference is American taxpayers might not be subsidizing you by giving your workers SNAP (Food Stamps), nor quite so large an Earned Income Tax Credit.

Why in hell should American taxpayers be subsidizing Mickey D's or Wal-Mart or any of the other low-wage employers living off the fat of your ass?

Nobody working a full-time job should need government subsidies.  Nobody working a full-time job should go hungry, or have to watch hungry children try to fall asleep.

$10.10 by whenever isn't enough.  It should be fifteen or sixteen right about now.  People should not go without heat, or food, or a roof over their heads.

Fuck the free markets.  Fuck the Libertarians.  Do the right thing.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Corruption

Russia.  China.  Turkey. Guatamala. Etc.

Everywhere.  Human beings, especially those who acquire any sort of wealth or power, are almost inevitably corrupt.  Probably those without wealth or power have similar inclinations but far less opportunity.  Would I indulge in insider trading if I had the opportunity?

Okay, I'd be sorely tempted, especially if I thought I could get away with it.

The Martoma trial, and the actions against seven other SAC Capital traders, are just one example of corruption right here at home.  The unusual thing about the SAC situation is that a few actual criminal prosecutions are taking place, albeit, so far, Steven A. Cohen himself remains unscathed.  In this country, you just don't go after a multi-billionaire.

On those rare occasions when the SEC goes after a bank or a big shot, it "agrees to" an impressive sounding but essentially negligible fine with no admission of wrongdoing.

Corruption.

"But wait," you say, "here in the USofA, at the very least, our corruption doesn't involve human rights violations."

Yeah, right.  Abu Ghraib.  Guant├ínamo.  Secret sites all over.

Then there was Brooklyn, for example, during the long Charles Hynes years.  The new DA, Ken Thompson, is working very hard to undo false convictions from the 1980s and 1990s, but a lot of mostly innocent black men still will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Mark Twain once said that the United States "has the best Congress money can buy."  Uh huh.

I've been too depressed to write a lot lately, but I'll try to get to Russia, China, Turkey, etc. later this month.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Janurary the last


Stoner Bowl

It seems I am not allowed to use the actual name of the event that will take place on Sunday.  Pretty much everything I publish online is clearly marked as "public domain," because my heirs can make their own money if they are so inclined and talented.  The NFL is not so secure.

Frankly, I think football is dreadful, given that it is rehearsal for war, not to mention all that traumatic brain injury.  I'll be at my local school district's budget hearings this year, urging the assholes to abandon football (and football's enormous insurance costs) for the upcoming year.

Most likely outcome: bleeding forehead from being beaten against brick wall.  Forehead: mine.

TPP

Yes, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is NAFTA on steroids, and will do extraordinary damage to working Americans while making a shitload of money for Big Money.  Obama is looking for fast-track authority, of course, since he's in the pocket of Wall Street.  Most likely, he'll get it.

If Elizabeth Warren votes to give him that authority, so help me, I never will vote for anybody, ever again.

Turkey

Erdogan, of course, is totally corrupt.  So is everybody else, almost certainly including the opposition.  Should we pull our money out of Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and whatnot, and toss it into Germany and Austria?

That's what's happening.  Put it in the USofA.  It, too, is totally corrupt, but better protected.  Nobody is dropping the smart bombs on us now, but maybe there are some targets that deserve it.  The rest of us... well, the rest of us...

When they blow us up, maybe we'll deserve it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

State of the Union

I stayed awake for some of it.

It did not help that Brooks and Shields and Ifill and Woodruff's lead-in dripped cynicism, hence augmenting my own.  Maybe I should have watched it on Fox, or MSNBC.  They'd have been less cynical and more assertive, one way or the other.

Of course, that might have left me feeling even more cynical.

When I was a kid, somebody gave my mother this little plastic house with two doors on the front.  When the weather was allegedly improving, a little plastic girl would come out one door; and when the weather was getting worse, a little plastic boy (or maybe it was a witch) came out the other.  It was kind of like watching Biden and Boehner behind Obama tonight.  One claps.  The other claps.  Two halfhearted clappings.

Nothing said tonight makes a damned bit of difference, and none of it will change the outcome of the midterms.

I'm trying to find the various Republican responses, but I guess I'll have to go to YouTube for those.  They might be good for a giggle or two,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Assorted stuff for late January


State of the Union

I'll try listening to Our President tonight if I can manage to stay awake.  I'm not expecting much, but I like the idea of compelling new federal contractors to pay a higher minimum wage.  Those contractors may employ as many low-wage workers as Wal-Mart or the fast food industry, so it's conceivable that some honest competition for workers might happen.

Needless to say, I don't expect anything about more aggressive actions against the Thieves of Wall Street.  If you haven't read Matt Taibbi's Griftopia, read it.  It's not at all out of date.

Turkey

Erdogan's putsch against everybody who might prosecute corruption in his government gives us less confidence in the possibility of an actually ethical Muslim government.  Erdogan was the poster child for democratic Islamist governance, but Turkey just is descending into the usual autocracy.

Stock Prices

Prices are down, popularly blamed on troubles in developing nations hurt by the possibility of economic growth in the USofA and Europe.  Oh, yeah, some also are blaming the "tapering" of bond buys by the Fed.

Essentially, it doesn't make a damned bit of difference.  Your 401K may dip a little, but one way or the other, it won't be enough to support you in your old age.  The big players, of course, continue to have everything they've already stolen, and continue to steal more.

Pete Seeger

He lasted a long time, but I'm still sorry to see him go.  Totally apart from the politics, he was a hell of a good clawhammer banjo player.  Bye, Pete.


Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Day

I probably must have mentioned, in the past, that I was there at the August 1963 March on Washington, but I was wading in the reflecting pond, trying to cool off; the acoustics were terrible, and there was a lot of background noise; and I didn't hear a word of the "I have a dream" speech until I heard it on TV back home.

In the years since 1963, the proportion of the unemployed who are black has not changed — roughly twice the proportion of the unemployed who are white.  Now that more whites are unemployed, of course, it's worse, especially for black teens, who may as well be living in Greece or Spain.  Some suggest the problem is not "racism," per se, but the fact that there are so few jobs in areas with high concentrations of blacks.

Well, when neighborhoods have miniscule incomes, demand is miniscule as well, so there are no jobs.  It looks like the problem is the same as it was half a century ago: segregation.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chris Christie

I have been laughing my ass off at the great Fort Lee New Jersey traffic jam.  Granted, I was not one of the poor saps trying to get across the George Washington Bridge during four days of needless lane closures intended to "punish" Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich for his failure to endorse fat boy's run for a second term.

Is there anybody, anywhere, who believes in the governor's claim to have been out of the loop?  If he was, than he's far too incompetent to run his state — hell, he couldn't even manage his staff!  And why were the emails released to the press so heavily redacted?  I say, guilty until proven imbecilic.

Anyway, the situation should kill any chance he had of winning the presidential nomination.  I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  Might the Great American Public have elected a sleazebag bully from New Jersey?  I don't have a clue.

Now if Hillary would only get back at Bill by having an affair with Mitch McConnell, well...

One lives and hopes.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back in Iraq

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, uncomfortable with their "liberal" reputations among the Republican Party's crazies, recently came up with a new way to "redeem" themselves: they are blaming Barack Obama for the current disastrous situation in Anbar Province. If Tea Party nut cases manage to defeat them in primaries, they deserve it — and it might help any Democratic challengers.

The person most responsible for the success of the Al Qaeda linked ISIS group in Iraq is Iraq's leader, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. It was al-Maliki who blocked residual American troops from remaining in Iraq. It was al-Maliki who pushed Sunni politicians out of the Iraqi government, marginalizing all Iraqi Sunni Muslims, and leaving them no potential allies apart from Sunni Muslim extremists.

Hopefully, some of the Sunni tribes in Anbar will continue to resist cooperation with ISIS — but when choosing the lesser of two evils, many are likely to choose Al Qaeda over al-Maliki.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Changing Direction

Okay, I was kind of obsessed with the evils of religious belief last month, but the holiday season has a way of doing that to me.  Despite John Kerry's current attempts to make progress towards Israeli-Palestinian peace, I will not obsess over the concept of the "Jewish (apartheid) state" for at least a month or two.

So, instead, let's try to parse the significance of Bill DeBlasio's inauguration as Mayor of New York City yesterday.  His address was both populist and progressive, but there was a bit of weirdness involved.  For one thing, he was sworn in by Bill Clinton, the man who led the Democratic Party away from its progressive ideals and into the pocket of Wall Street — the alleged "Democrat" who signed the bill to "end welfare as we know it," would not consider the regulation of derivatives, and signed the bill that ended Glass-Steagall.

Was it a signal?  Hillary was there too.  Did the Clinton presence signal that Hillary is ready to move the Democratic Party back towards the left if she gets her turn to run in 2016?  And if she runs as a progressive, will she follow through if she wins?

Also present was the not especially progressive Democratic Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, also mentioned as a potential candidate in 2016.  Since he currently holds office, if he means to make a progressive turn he'll actually have to do it, right out there in public.  (It also would be nice if he could follow through on his promise to clean up the Albany cesspool of corruption.  New Yorkers used to look down on New Jersey as a cesspool of corruption.  These days, it's kind of a toss-up.)

Andrew's father, Mario Cuomo, anticipated DeBlasio's use of the "Tale of Two Cities" analogy a few decades ago, when he delivered the keynote address at the 1984 Democratic Convention.  To me, it remains the greatest convention speech of modern times, far surpassing the 2004 Obama speech (which turned out to be, largely, bullshit.)  Andrew ought to give it a listen — and so should you.