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.

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.

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.