Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Anatomy of a deception: How Obama got away with bombing Syria

  1. The Obama administration wants to bomb Syria. The American public and general world opinion is heavily against the idea. Congress very skeptical.
  2. ISIS threat is scary, but not scary enough. Suddenly, a new super-terrorist organization is identified that makes ISIS look like a Girl Scout troop: Khorasan!
  3. Within days, stories start popping up at major news outlets about the danger Khorasan presents to the West. It’s reported that they are operating in…Syria.
  4. Tension builds, and CNN breathlessly reports that an “official” claims there is an imminent threat to America from Khorasan. The official says the group is building “improved explosive devices” that are much harder to detect.
  5. On September 23, without Congressional or UN approval, Obama claims self-defense and announces air strikes against Syria.
  6. Days later, news reports start questioning the Khorasan threat. Further investigation leads to accusations that there isn’t even a group called Khorasan operating in Syria, with some former intelligence agents claiming they’d never heard of the group.
  7. Obama administration pats itself on the back.

Monday, September 29, 2014

If you’re not mad as hell, you should be

Michele Bachmann wants to declare war on Islam, not merely ISIS, but a new crusade against the second largest religion on the planet. John Boehner and friends want the unemployed to get off their lazy asses and find a job. Bill O’Reilly wants to create a 25,000-member mercenary army to fight in the Middle East. And Sarah Palin gave a speech at the Voter Values Summit this past week that was so incoherent, not even the code-word attuned Tea Party attendees could figure out what had her so pissed off. Oh, the insanity escapes the mouths of these morons like projectile vomit, drenching all of us in its sticky, rank wrongness.

As the mid-term elections draw closer, the lunacy grows louder. Close the borders, impeach Obama, shrink the government, lower taxes…we are treated to a barrage of political ads coming at us from every direction full of deranged accusations and proposed solutions worse than the problem. They are strings of worn clich├ęs and vapid emotional appeals that should insult the intelligence of anyone over the age of ten (my apologies to ten-year olds). If you are a conservative political candidate, there is almost nothing you can say that is too callous, too insulting or too ignorant for your audience. And far too many of these buffoons will be elected to office by aging white voters who think America has been going to hell in a hand basket since the end of the Eisenhower administration.

Ill-informed Republican voters are going to give us more of everything that is wrong with America — more obstructionism, more divisiveness, more intolerance, and more sheer ignorance — hastening this country’s downhill trajectory. Thanks in large part to the Supreme Court, the Koch’s and their deep pocketed friends are bankrolling CEO friendly candidates who never met a billionaire they didn’t like. Our government will continue to be a circus of ineptness.

Where’s Howard Beale when we need him?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cameron speech does Big Brother proud

This is a disturbing development. In a speech at the U.N. yesterday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that 9/11 and 7/7 truthers, and others who hold what he considers “extremist” views, are just as dangerous as the violent ISIS. He goes on to compare those holding extreme non-violent views with Nazis and Klu Klux Klansmen.

In his speech, Cameron said:

“We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism - not just violent extremism.”

It’s possible Cameron may walk back some of his comments after the inevitable backlash, but the thought process here is truly Orwellian. It harkens back to the blog I wrote yesterday about the Denver school board member who wants U.S. history to be taught with a more positive, patriotic spin. Who decides these things? Who decides whether a history book for high schoolers includes an honest discussion of slavery or not? Who decides which non-violent views are extremist? It’s our glorious leaders.

In Cameron’s world, you can be labeled an extremist for simply disagreeing with what your government says or does. If I say I don’t buy into the official version of events on 9/11, I’m as dangerous as a knife-wielding ISIS member.

And, after he’s identified the enemy, how exactly is Cameron going to combat non-violent extremist views? Will the extremists be imprisoned? Sent to re-education camps? Labeled as mentally ill?

Cameron’s U.N. speech was fear mongering at its most appalling spiced with totalitarian inclinations. It laid bare both the elite’s growing anxiety at the worldwide threats to Western hegemony and the reactionary, undemocratic response to those threats. Big Brother would be proud.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dear conservatives, be careful what you ask for

A member of Colorado’s Jefferson County School Board, which includes Denver-area schools, has written a proposal urging high school U.S. history classes to teach positive aspects of U.S. history and its heritage. According to the wording of the proposal, teaching materials should "promote citizenship, patriotism ... (and) respect for authority" and not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law." In other words, cleanse American history of any unpleasant truths like slavery or Native American genocide or dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Understandably, many students and parents are outraged by the proposed changes, and students from seven Denver-area schools walked out of classes on Tuesday and Wednesday in protest. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. Christian fundamentalists have been infiltrating school boards across the country for years in order to push their religious agenda into our children’s classrooms. Texas is an especially egregious example. 

The Denver proposal is Orwell’s Ministry of Truth made real, where history is rewritten to conform to the government-approved version of events. It is an attempt to pull the curtain down on the ugly, violent episodes of our past and pretend they never happened. Truth becomes what the government says it is.

This is, of course, not education but indoctrination. Instead of opening young minds to the world as it is, the mistakes that have been made, and possibly how they might make things better in the future, they would be force-fed historical fantasies and American exceptionalism until they became unquestioning, God-fearing little robots.

And here’s the thing; it’s been tried before. In the 1950s we were made to say the pledge of allegiance every morning, were treated to highly sanitized versions of American history and repeatedly told the importance of respecting authority.

Then came the 1960s…

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Killing off America’s middle class is economic suicide

My father was the son of Italian immigrants. Like many young men of his generation, he quit high school to fend for himself during the Great Depression. He became a self-taught auto mechanic and eventually co-owned a garage in Oakland, California. The third of three children, I came along in the early 1950s and grew up in a comfortable middle-class part of the city, enjoying the material benefits of the post-war boom in America. Our house was small but comfortable. He was the sole breadwinner, yet we could afford upper-end cars and took two-week vacations every summer.

We were not Ozzie and Harriet’s family, and we had our struggles and trials, but still, I was brought up living a modest, secure life even though my father never finished the eighth grade and worked with his hands. We were tried and true middle class Americans, a blue-collar family that could still afford nice things.

The point of my little trip down memory lane is to contrast a time when opportunity existed for a large portion of American society, as opposed to today, where opportunity exists for only a very small group at the top of the food chain. The middle class is dying or, more accurately, being killed off by the one percent. In an article on income inequality by Morgan Stanley, there are more than a few depressing graphs and charts illustrating the decline of America’s middle class, but one that stands out is a chart showing the U.S. leading the developed countries of the world in its share of low paying jobs. What does this mean? It means the gap between the tiny group of haves and the rest of us will continue to grow wider and wider.

And this is where I become confused. Doesn’t destroying America’s middle class mean destroying the customer base for many large retailers? If my wages are stagnant or declining while prices of goods rise, that means I’m not going to be able to afford a new model car or a new dishwasher or the latest phone. If I’m the CEO of Target or GM or Amana, why would I support policies or candidates who want to shrink my customer base? Doesn’t that seem self-defeating to you? Yet it’s exactly what’s happening. If the current trajectory doesn’t change, the average person won’t be able to afford to buy things we consider necessities now, like appliances or cars or insurance.

It could be that the richest of the rich simply don’t care. Their wealth places them beyond the concerns of mere mortals and the future of their families seems secure. Are they all as callous, greedy and heartless as the Koch brothers? Perhaps. How else to explain what is happening to our economy?

Monday, September 22, 2014

More Short Scary Stories

I've posted four more short scary stories at "They're Only Shadows." Check them out...if you dare.


Monday minutia:

400,000 people marched in New York City over the weekend demanding action on climate change. If you watch mainstream media you might have missed that.

In both raw numbers and percentage of the population, the United States has the largest total prison population of any country on the planet.

The state of California spends $62,300 per prison inmate per year while only $9,200 to educate a child in a K-12 school.

A Reuters poll found that one in four Americans want their state to secede from the U.S.

Attention hipsters: The Pabst Brewing Co., which makes Pabst Blue Ribbon, Colt 45 and Old Milwaukee, has been bought by a Russian-based beverage company, Oasis. Cheers, Comrade.

40 percent of all workers in the United States actually make less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968 after you account for inflation.

The name of the richest man in Asia is Ka-shing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Black (fools) gold


It’s pretty much the answer to any question you have about what’s going on in the Middle East. We remain mired in that desolate, sandy patch of planet not because we care about the freedom or welfare of the Iraqis or Pakistanis or Iranians, but because we are still highly dependent on oil and the products that require oil. Unfortunately for us, the oil is in the ground under countries that either a) hate us, or b) are ruled by weak American tools or puppets.

Think about it. If the U.S. had put the billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars we’ve spent waging an unwinnable war against terrorism over the past half-century (as a cover for our ultimate goal of controlling oil fields) into creating sustainable forms of energy, we would be energy independent right now. Short-sighted, industry owned Republicans and Democrats are to blame, but you have to give a special shout-out to Dick Cheney and the neocons for at least being honest and clearly stating their intent to grab Middle East oil fields in their 2000 report Project for a New America.

By increasing our military involvement in the ISIS situation, we are once again falling into a trap that will cost more billions of dollars and probably American lives. We are like Charlie Brown who always falls for Lucy’s football trick. Our greed and unwillingness to change course has us behaving like idiots doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It also puts us right where the terrorists want us.

Our country’s priorities have become seriously skewed over the years by wealthy elites who put profits over people and wealth over the welfare of America.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Palin for President? Think of the possibilities.

So Sarah Palin’s clan was involved in a brawl at a house party a few nights ago, with her eldest daughter Bristol going all UFC on the host. Got me thinking. Hey, America is going to hell in a hand basket as it is, why not have some fun along the way?

Can you imagine the entertainment value of a Palin presidency? Jimmy Carter’s beer guzzling brother Billy was worth a few laughs, but a whole White House full of white trash would be beyond epic. We’d be treated to scandals and brouhahas and guns going off and ATVs tearing up the Rose Garden and insanely inappropriate quotes…enough material for five blogs.

Heck, if Bill Maher is going to vote for Rand Paul, I just might write in Sarah Palin. Her presidency would be a lot more fun to watch.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

If the polls are right, something is definitely wrong

According to a very recent Washington Post poll, 72 percent of registered voters do not approve of the way Republicans in congress are doing their job. A mere 21 percent give them a “Meh.” I don’t understand how this squares with weekly headlines claiming Republicans are predicted to make gains in the House and may take the majority in the Senate in the upcoming election. How is it that people consistently complain about a do-nothing Congress and then vote more obstructionist Republicans into office?

The disconnect between what polls tell us and what people actually do in the privacy of their voting booths is inexplicable to me. Democrats should be enjoying a landslide victory this November, instead we’ll get more do nothing, know nothing conservatives whose only goal in life is to keep Obama from getting what he wants as President. I know, I know…gerrymandering, Citizens United, the Koch brothers, Obama hatred…all of this keeps red states red and threatens Dems in blue states. Still, I’m flummoxed by the situation. We are getting a government the majority of Americans don’t want, despite our efforts. It’s a government that serves the one percent, thanks to the Supreme Court and Republican controlled state houses, and, unfortunately, regular Republicans who have been brainwashed into voting against their best interests.

How long will we allow the elites to thwart the will of the majority of Americans?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Brennan tells Senators, “You’re not the boss of me.”

The Senate is continuing to investigate the CIA’s admitted role in hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee computers during an investigation into the CIA. In a particularly interesting development, CIA director John Brennan refused to tell Senators who ordered the eavesdropping on the committee. This incensed a number of Senators, as it should have, because the Senate Intelligence Committee is charged with oversight of the CIA, theoretically. 

Brennan’s refusal to accept the Committee’s authority reveals a lot about the attitude of the CIA and NSA toward oversight in general. They ain’t buying into it. Even more interesting will be the Senate’s reaction to this high-level “fuck you.” Our spy agencies have clearly grown too large and too powerful to be reigned in by a bunch of whining Senators. They see their work as beyond criticism or control and can keep a lid on anything by simply calling it a secret for national security reasons. And lord knows Obama won’t step in to help. He’s as cowed by the CIA as anyone in Washington, DC.

What will the incensed Senator’s do? Challenge the all-mighty surveillance state? Doubtful. Brennan and his buddies know too much.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Civility = STFU

“Civility” is the buzzword of the day. Is it a necessary requirement for free and open discussion or a subterfuge? The spark that ignited the current civility debate was when a tenured professor at the University of Illinois had his appointment withdrawn by the president over his vocal criticism of Israel’s recent actions. Several other university presidents have joined the chorus calling for civil discourse and courtesy among all sides of an argument. In his article, Civility is for suckers: Campus hypocrisy and the “polite behavior” lie, Salon’s David Palumbo-Liu does a good job of arguing that calls for civility are actually the elite’s way of tamping down descent. It is, after all, only their definition of civility that counts.

It seems to me that the call for “civility” also moves the notion of debate into the realm of false equivalencies, where all sides of an argument are considered of equal value. Global warming is a perfect example. Even though the debate among scientists as to whether human activity is responsible for global warming was settled years ago, the American media has consistently given global warming deniers a platform to air their clearly unscientific, corporate-backed theories. So, does civility mean that we must seriously engage arguments that the earth is hollow or that the Holocaust didn’t happen? How can we even define reality if all beliefs are given equal weight?

And then there’s the question of what to do when civil debate accomplishes nothing and action is required. Our revolutionary forefathers clearly reached a point where they decided negotiating with the British was useless and it was time to fight for their rights. From the British perspective, however, the colonial rabble were clearly being uncivil about the whole thing. I doubt that you will find any American history books arguing that the revolutionaries should have been more conciliatory and open to debate. Would the leaders of the Civil Rights movement of the fifties and sixties have accomplished anything by sitting around a table calmly discussing their grievances with a bunch of white supremacists?

It’s clear that the current calls for civility are really elite code for, “Don’t rock the boat.” Real change is messy and disruptive and might delay my tee time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bill Maher says he might vote for Rand Paul. Huh?

HBO host Bill Maher doesn’t like Hillary Clinton. Okay. I’m not a big fan of hers either. In an interview with The Hill, Maher went on to say that he might consider voting for a Republican in 2016. Come again, Bill? He thinks Rand Paul is an interesting candidate.

Bill, Bill, Bill.

For a person who pretends to be politically savvy and informed, this is a spectacularly idiotic pronouncement (unless it was a bit of satirical theatre, but I doubt that). With the exception of his isolationist tendencies, Paul is a conservative’s conservative, the kind that Bill Maher routinely mocks on his show. Bill, if you’re reading this, here are some of Paul’s far right-wing creds for you to absorb:

Abortion: Pro-life. Abortion regulation should be left up to the states.

Education: Advocate of home schooling. Doesn’t want the federal government to regulate home schooling in any way.

Energy and the environment: Doesn’t believe in man-made global warming and opposes the EPA efforts to enforce greenhouse emissions.

Health care: Opposes Obamacare and universal healthcare. Despite the facts, he doesn’t believe there are significant numbers of Americans unable to access healthcare.

Social Security: Advocates privatizing Social Security.

Second Amendment: Strong supporter of the right to bear arms. Lifelong member of the NRA.

Economy: Believes it’s a myth that government can create jobs.

Immigration: Does not believe in amnesty for illegal immigrants and wants the government to strictly enforcement immigration laws.

Rand Paul? Seriously?