My Watch (Aug. – Oct. 2011)

More pie for a crowded sky…

Our plutocrats are pretty smart. They turned around what seemed genuine Main Street protest over bank bailouts – the Tea Party – and made it a front to assure Big Insurance, Wall Street and our greedy banks were protected against dire socialism… By phalanxes of moms and pops not benefiting at all from their own efforts, evidently so stupid it’s difficult to believe they can read the placards they carry and crap in a bowl.

That’s very definition of “co-option”.

The Right sees it’s chance to roll back America not just to pre-New Deal severity, but to pre-labor code penury and servitude. For their foot soldiers, they have idiots enamored with Middle Eastern fairy tales, their own vengeful fantasies of angry God bedeviling sinners, and an American civic set-up that exists only in savage projections of the Koch Brothers.

Mississippi’s new “person-hood amendment” attempts to sidestep Roe v. Wade liberalization of abortion by declaring fertilized eggs smaller than cells in a chickpea are dem peoples juz’ like you an’ me. Throw anti-abortionists and religious fanatics a bone and they go all frothy.

A panel pro and nay on the ballot initiative, to be put to voters this fall, argued its merits at a Mississippi university this week. From my position, it would be a step forward akin to ex post facto declaration banning the Wright Brothers ’03 flight and wiping out all aeronautical history since.

I’m sure we could dig up some flat-earthers who’d support just that.

- Oct. 27, 2011

Smile, you’re on scandal camera…

A growing number of consumer complaints cite  “cramming” – groundless fees appearing out of the blue on American utility bills. The fee added onto a monthly bill – especially from phone companies – purports Internet connections or long-distance service customers neither authorize nor use. AT&T is one of the most egregious carriers of these phantom charges from a very shady Pennsylvania outfit called “USBI”.

Go ahead and check your bill if you’re a customer. At least $5 will be charged. Since this appears on a “mother” bill it’s not hard to imagine the company sending the bill knows the fee is bogus, and may even have a finger in the scam company’s financial pie. Compute $5 a month by the number of AT&T customers, and you come up with a pretty penny.

So it’s amusing when a company evidently scams itself. Olympus Cameras dismissed this month its CEO when he questioned$687 million in fees charged by an obscure financial advisory firm called AXES. Try finding it on the Internet. If this isn’t AXIS Financial, a relatively well-known advisory firm, I’d say some folks high up in Olympus, maybe on its Board of Directors, have hooked up their own bogus cash calf to the camera giant’s tit.

In an interview with the AP published on Saturday, former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford said the company is moving too slowly and accused Olympus of trying to sidestep questions about the fee. Olympus has said outside lawyers and accountants will be part of an independent review of the fee. “Why do you need a committee to say there’s $687 million for advice you can’t justify? Start with that before you move on,” Woodford told the AP.

Maybe “amusing” is a poor choice of words. Maybe… felonious?

- Oct. 23, 2011

  • She didn’t intend that it be so… colorful

The big news today is President Obama’s announcement of withdrawal of American troops by the end of the year. It was expected, but still sounded cheery. Although when Dec. 31 rolls around and the last Hummer rolls past a Kuwaiti checkpoint, I’ll believe. Otherwise, my only question is how many of our famous, self-canceling ‘non-combat’ troops will remain. I trust in little now. And fuzzy security arrangements guarantee this move will be as politically hot a potato as socialized medicine.

Hillary: (Gulp!) Is that blood?

But for pure laughs, nothing tops Hillary Clinton’s video reaction to the gory death of Moammar Khadafy, or Qaddafi, or whatever. …The crazy guy in Libya who was alive before he was dead when captured. Some of the photos show what looks like a neat little bullet hole in his forehead. Maybe he tried to escape. Suicide, as Claude Rains would ponder?

Note her slight scowl. I guess that’s where the unceremonial “arrest from culvert” got… messy. Earlier in the week, the Secretary of State moved that Khadafy be “captured or killed”. That actually drew some comment – since it was so casually blunt coming from a figure so high in our government. She was just in Libya earlier this week, and it’s forgivable to consider her “dead or alive” proposal as the Colonel’s death warrant. It’s certainly understandable if trigger-happy Libyan rebels did.

And, after all, Khadafy only had been bloodthirsty rogue since “Arab spring” dawned in his own country, earlier this year. Prior to that, we considered him Libyan chief of state, and not a particularly distasteful one.

I can promise you right now: We’re gonna miss the guy. He knew how to dress, told great jokes, and was pure goldmine with a pool cue. He was in charge 42 years. Reagan couldn’t kill him. And as his blond, busty Ukrainian nurse noted: He stuffed a mean panty. R.I.P., Colonel.

- Oct. 21, 2011

That ol’ Cui Bono got me in its spell…

As suitable last word on the ‘beanery bomb’ bullshit, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi has a nice summation. After sifting through the shady facts and talking to his sources in and out of intelligence, he concludes the whole affair is a “false flag” operation. Such espionage gambits engineer a plot, or even execute one, in order to frame some other entity as conspirator. He concludes the only possible player who’d benefit from this nonsensical scheme… is Israel.

Given the fact that all three countries’ intelligence services could have run the false-flag operation, who would have the strongest motive? Cui bono, who benefits? Undoubtedly Israel would. Tel Aviv has been demanding military action against Iran for many years. A terrorist plot to assassinate a friendly ambassador in Washington would be considered a godsend by the Benjamin Netanyahu government, which has stated repeatedly that Iran is a threat and Washington should be taking the lead against it.

Giraldi: Who benefits?

The United States has much less motive to create a new crisis with Iran, even accepting that the president would like to appear to be strong against terrorism and what he chooses to call state sponsors of terror in the lead-up to elections. If an armed conflict were somehow to start and go wrong, there would be considerable downside, making this far too risky to contemplate. The White House has several times warned Israel against starting a war with Iran, most recently three weeks ago when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited Tel Aviv. President Obama might be willing to push hard against the Iranians to satisfy demands from Congress, the media, and the Israel Lobby, but he appears unwilling to employ military force.The Saudis have no love for Iran but would be fearful of the consequences of what could quickly become a major war escalating on their doorstep, so their motivation for heightening tension is also very questionable, even if they would welcome someone else dealing with what they see as the Iranian threat.

The real news value in this story is discovery Israel somehow is pissed off with the Zetas drug cartel. Otherwise – why involve them? God knows, nothing happens in our foreign policy without approval of Tel Aviv and our domestic Israel Lobby. That’s driven by political profit or loss – how much Washington is behind the “bomb Iran” project. “Israel Firsters” have been pushing us to remove Israel’s existential enemy for years, and every American politician courts the Lobby’s favor. Maybe some high-level Knesset members got burned paying bud money for shake.

Another interesting aspect is how quick the Lefty press was willing to jump on the battle wagon. They also were first to flush it down the toilet when their own reader feedback was majority “you’re shitting me, right? A failed Texas car salesman and drunk? Yeah. THERE’S your hit man.” One thing about the Middle East and Israel: When the subject comes up, Left and Right always are primed to kick rag-head ass at slightest provocation. Rich and poor trumps good and bad, but tribe trumps them all.

Also, either our handlers are desperate, or so contemptuous of America they think we’ll buy anything if threat level is high enough. “They were coming for us where we EAT, morons!” That this one has soured and won’t spark immediate reprisal Washington intended doesn’t mean it’s written off. It’ll be part of any list of pretexts eventually adding up to suitable Pearl Harbor Moment. And it’ll be on…

- Oct. 20, 2011

As we step down, they may or may not step up, so we’ll step around stepping down…

Over at Antiwar.com, Angela Keaton perceptively bashes an Associated Press for wondering if a new Iraq security agreement by our “hand-wringing” officials will “ensure that gains made and more than 4,400 American military lives lost since March 2003 do not go to waste.

Thank you, AP, for being the shrill shill we always thought you were. Yeah, we better not draw down – we can’t letthose dead troops die for nothing. So, let’s kill some more. Why not let Washington do its own PR? Also, there were these mysterious couple of grafs:

“In recent months, Washington has been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces. A Pentagon spokesman said Saturday that no final decision has been reached about the U.S. training relationship with the Iraqi government.

“But a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.”

So an unnamed source confirms what Pentagon maintains hasn’t been decided yet. Let’s wait ’til Dec. 31 – and count how many stay behind. I’ll bet it’s more that ’160′. Earlier, Pentagon said about regiment-strength, or 3,000, will stay. If less than that, what are they gonna do with all that Fort Honkie the world knows as “green zone”?

- Oct. 18, 2011

The 99-percent ‘grays’

Two things impress me about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. One is its tenacity; for a movement without any real platform or leader, it’s still bucketing along. The other is age of protestors – especially in gatherings outside Manhattan. There seem to be a lot of Boomers in there – not just old hippies and fellow-travelers, but mom and pop My Generation, too.

That could change this thing overnight, and add heft to make it an effective political force. A poll shows New Yorkers favor the protest. And that’s a tough crowd if ever there was one.

Let’s face it: Something’s gotta give.

- Oct. 17, 2011

  • Absolutely my last lampoon of * chortle * BEANERY BOMB!

I’ve decided to give the administration an even break. Stranger things have occurred. Who could foresee the Iron Curtain would disappear so quickly? Or consider, when we re-established contact in 1972, that China would become within two generations the globe’s capitalism colossus – a nation-state savings and loan? Can anyone visualize Ava Gardner and Mickey Rooney ever being married?

It’s a mixed-up, crazy world in which we live, so, perhaps it’s true – and the highest reaches of Iran’s regime and security apparatus were plotting an enormous terror bombing in our nation’s capital with, as their co-conspirator… a failed Texas car salesman?

Bwwaaaahahahahahahahahhhahahahahahhahahhhh!

Sorry… (ahem). That was unforgivable. Excuse me. Please. So, this is it. My last word on the subject.  (It’s already beginning to fall apart, so I’m safe.)

I’ll miss it, though. …”Fuck those diners!” …In league with a Mexican drug cartel! This bullshit just has everything.

Never realized the Zetas was another of Israel’s existential enemies. Iran… or los narcostraficantes.

Which would Tel Aviv prefer we attack first?

- Oct. 13, 2011

…First as farce, then maybe as really stupid tragedy?

As more and more of this Iranian “bomb plot” shakes out, it looks more and more like one of those FBI “shoeless Joe / wino terror cell” set-ups. The “high-ranking” Iranian official isn’t actually in custody, just named; the guy actually arrested looks a lot like an agent-provocateur sucker. Churlish immigrant nailed for criminal boneheadity.

“This is — to me it’s really historic in a terrible sense of the word. The Iranians have crossed a red line” (Rep. Peter) King said. “I mean if this had been carried out, you’re talking about an act of murder carried out by a foreign government on our soil of a foreign diplomat — basically this would have been an act of war. “I mean this is — this really goes beyond anything that I’m aware of that’s happened before,” he said. “Certainly something as flagrant and this notorious has raised . . . to me, the relationship between the United States and Iran to a very precipitous level.” [NewsMax]
Question is – why would Iran do such a thing? And especially: Why would they put together a comic-opera affair roping in (or attempting to) Mexican drug cartels and talentless amateurs? And… well… Peter King, he of the Hair of Steel. And worse: On my car radio this morning, we got the scoop from the most dubious of sources, Joe Biden. His summation went something like this:
“This is serious. Something… Serious. It’s gotta be… something… done. Man! You can’t count out those Tigers, can you? Motor City! Weee! Those Iranians must face some kinda diplomatic… uh… reaction. Wait’ll you see our case! See this? It’s the golf ball Tiger Woods played when he won his last Grand Slam. I mean… I’m pissed! We gotta drop some bombs. React! Where’d I drop my glass? Weee!”

As far as accusing Iran of anything, I could say, “Berlusconi boned my bitch!”, but would that prove he whipped out the felino in my neighborhood?

Even if this isn’t used as casus belli, you can be damn sure it’ll be one of the stepping-stone pretexts to any future attack on Iran. Our press and vast Israel Lobby have been pushing that for years.

Remember: Shabby evidence that got us into Iraq was either cooked up or vetted by neoconservatives in the Pentagon who were pro-Israel fanatics. That they still have cubicles in our security structure is apparent in this travesty.

- Columbus Day 2011

~ UPDATE ~

A more… sanguine… view of this wacky Iranian plot, which allegedly also involves Mexican cartels (what! no neo-Nazis!) is also featured on the Atlantic site, by Max Fisher. He spells out all the reasons why Iran wouldn’t want to blow up the Saudi Ambassador, puff Mexican weed, or smoke American diners.

Somewhere, metaphorical art movers are firing up Bics and dancing on their vans…

Just as an important economic meeting takes place this week in the toe of Saudi Arabia’s boot, the FBI has arrested what the Justice Department describes as top-level Iranians planning to blow up Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir along with over a 100 diners unfortunate enough to chow down in the same Washington DC restaurant. Expectedly fever-pitch reaction has started, and we have this from normally mild-mannered liberal Steve Clemons, writing in The Atlantic:

This is a serious situation — and this kind of assassination is the sort that could lead to an unexpected cascade of events that could draw the U.S. and other powers into a consequential conflagration in the Middle East.

If Iran was indeed willing to attack a Saudi Ambassador and close confidante of the Saudi King on U.S. soil and countenance the death of 100-150 Americans, then the U.S. has reached a point where it must take action.

I think what he means is finally take action. Every voice that heeds our well-connected Israel Lobby has been pushing for an American attack on Iran since – God, who knows when it all started?

Clemons also notes a major issue at the “World Economic Forum (in Abu Dhabi) this week is that a more intense proxy struggle is taking place between Saudi Arabia and Iran throughout the Middle East as the perception of American strategic contraction grows.”

Yeah… I’ll bet. Something smells kinda smelt about this “Remember the Maine” tale. We’ll keep tabs on it, including the odd development that the Iranian hit men aren’t only arrested – they’re apparently taxed (at right).

- Oct. 11, 2011

Only suspense is wondering how Democrats will blow this one…

President Obama’s ambitious jobs bill was DOA with Congressional Republicans. Oh… they mealy-mouthed awhile about “studying” it and leaving the door open as long as they were able to negotiate with their own, pressing additions and subtractions.

But that open-door policy had a guillotine blade hanging above the jamb. The GOP firmly believes the best thing for this country is to make sure every speck of wealth stays in the careless, shifty hands of our super-rich and speculators who should be spilling out their frenzied guts in Gamblers Anonymous testimony. “Hi, I’m Bill R, and I squandered away your fuckin’ retirement.”

So it’s no stunner there are whispers the project is toe-tagged and heading downtown on a gurney.

The American Jobs Act never had a particularly good chance of passing the House. But as of yesterday, it’s officially dead. Majority Leader Eric Cantor isn’t even pretending the two sides will work something out. “The $447 billion jobs package as a package: dead?” A reporter asked him. “Yes,” Cantor replied. [Ezra Klein, WaPo]

But wait! Can it be Democrats are pushing back? …Putting it on the line? Truth or dare or shut up and sit down time hits the Hill?

Struggling to deliver the big jobs package proposed by President Barack Obama, Senate Democrats are using the issue to force Republican senators to vote on tax increases for millionaires, picking up on a White House theme that the nation’s wealthiest Americans aren’t paying their fair share.

Senate Democrats said Wednesday they were changing Obama’s jobs package to add a 5.6 percent tax on income above $1 million, a proposal that is sure to be blocked by Republicans. [Associated Press]

OK… on the face of it, that’s one ballsy maneuver – essentially telling the GOP that not only are the rich going to lose their tax cut, but an extra nip will be added on. Wow! That puts the ball in Republicans’ corner. How will that look in next year’s elections? …The GOP votes against a jobs bill because they don’t want the rich to be troubled with a piddling national tithe to fund the damn thing? Whatta wedge issue! There’s your class warfare.

But Democrats will waver and fold. Their rich constituents will hit the phones and this bravado will fade. First it’ll be the “blue dogs”, then all the rest will stick their hands in their pockets, shuffle their feet, and mutter darkly about “danger to the economy”. They’ll let the GOP spin-machine explain how keeping rich folk ass-deep in new yachts and letting corporations spend their tax savings opening new sweatshops overseas will be peachy for us peasants.

…But I don’t want to seem skeptical.

- Oct. 6, 2011

Afghanistan – where has this decade gone?

While we were arguing over the case of Amanda Knox and watching with bated breath the trial of Michael Jackson’s singularly careless Dr. Feelgood, the world changed a little. This is the 10th anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan and finally, it seems, we’re mostly sick of the endless quagmire.

…Nearly two-thirds of Americans want troop levels in the country to be reduced, a new CBS News poll shows.

Sixty-two percent said troop levels should be decreased immediately, according to the poll, conducted Sept. 28 – Oct. 2. Twenty-four percent want troop levels kept the same for now, while 7 percent want them increased. In 2009, as discussions to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan were underway, about a third supported increasing the number of U.S. troops there. [CBS News]

There’s agonizingly slow force-reduction going on, with another 10,000 troops to be pulled out by the end of the year. Public support for the war has been falling fast – 57 percent in June wanted us out. It’s hard to say with ongoing recession whether this will be a major issue in next year’s election – but it should be.

- Oct. 4, 2011

Don’t go all Casey Anthony Outrage with me. I think Amanda Knox ISN’T guilty.

When it began to look like Amanda Knox might have her conviction overturned – as what happened today – an alternate approach began circulating. Avoiding her guilt or innocence, the question is asked if the victim, Meredith Kercher, has been forgotten in all the hub-bub.

Ms. Kercher wasn’t forgotten. Her killer is in prison. The only person convicted by actual evidence is serving his time. That prison term, however, has been sharply reduced by Italy’s justice system, in exchange for Rudy Guede’s criminal implication of Knox and Sollecito.

Trouble is, there’s no evidence of their guilt, other than an overheated media’s corkscrewy coverage and especially a rogue prosecutor­’s voodoo notions. There is no evidence against Knox and Sollecito at all. Period. She confessed and implicated others after more than 40 hours of interrogat­ion; at that point, anyone would confess to being Moby Dick. Incriminating her boss was suggestion of the police, and in the marathon questioning, she finally went along with it. The DNA “evidence” would be inadmissib­le in U.S. court, since such atomic amounts couldn’t be preclude cross-cont­amination.

There’s nothing there. Kercher now is not the issue. Her family got justice with Guede’s conviction and imprisonme­nt. Everything after that was injustice – and it’s over now.
- Oct. 3, 2011

Smells like spleen spirit…

A signal sucker play in run-up to the Iraq invasion was dire warning from the Bush Administration that Saddam Hussein could pulverize America with nuclear weapons launched from… uh… drones? Bottle rockets? That comes to mind considering reaction to an Iranian admiral’s threats that its lame navy soon will patrol America’s coastline.

Fox News, of course, jumps all over this one like a schoolyard bully on a near-sighted Special Ed kid:

The Iranian navy plans to move naval vessels out of the Persian Gulf and into the Atlantic Ocean, “near maritime borders of the United States,” the Tehran Times reported Tuesday.

According to the English-language paper based in Tehran, the announcement came from a top Iranian naval officer on Tuesday. “As the global arrogance (forces of imperialism) have a (military) presence near our sea borders, we also plan to have a strong presence near the U.S. sea borders with the help of the soldiers who are loyal to the vali-e faqih (supreme jurisprudent),” said Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, as quoted and paraphrased by the Tehran Times.

“We’ve been pushing freedom of the seas for years and the Iranian navy can go wherever it wants,” said Pentagon Spokesman Capt. John Kirby.

Iranians might face a challenge in refueling its fleet. Some in the Pentagon have speculated it could gas up in Venezuela, whose President, Hugo Chavez, is known to have a close relationship with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranians gave no indication of when or what kind of vessels they might deploy, but the announced plan comes just months after Iran sent warships through the Suez following the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. It was the first time Iran had moved ships into the Mediterranean and the move put Israel on high alert.

Iranian ships would detour to South America before entering our… hemisphere? And we’d sit back in awed terror? With the most powerful Navy on earth? Yeah. Right.

In a rundown of Iran’s naval capability, Jane’s Defense evinces little of that necessary awe. In any bust-out war, combatant nations must produce their own naval craft from scratch. Iran seems capable of indigenous frigates (the smallest warship above patrol craft), midget submarines, and what has become the new long-range gunnery of any modern navy – cruise missiles. This is the kind of navy deployed to defend its own shores, or maybe make a show of brazenness in the Persian Gulf and Suez Canal.

Iran has no aircraft carriers. We do. They have no global-reach nuclear submarines. We do – with armament on each that could turn Iran’s shifting sands into… jungle? We have worldwide bases and are sitting off the coast of Iran aching for them to give us excuse to launch the full attack Israel is pushing us into.

Those midget submarines would be a bother – if they were loaded-up with anything more than non-existent nuclear weapons.

Sorry, Fox. I’m suffering panic-exhaustion. And my patience is wearing awfully thin on this shit.

 - Sept. 28, 2011

She rides a broomstick?… Why not? Seems Italian courts will believe anything.

As Amanda Knox stubbornly struggles for justice in the morbidly deficient Italian justice system, it’s amazing how she endures some of the stuff thrown at her.

Lawyer Carlo Pacelli, who is representing Patrick Lumumba, a man Knox attempted to implicate for the slashing murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, said Knox has “a double-faced soul” and a split personality, BBC Newsis reporting. Authorities briefly detained Lumumba, but they cleared him and he is suing Knox for defamation.

One side of Knox is “angelic, good, compassionate, and in some ways, even saintly,” Pacelli said. But the other side is “Lucifer-like, demonic, satanic, diabolic” and “longs to live out borderline extreme behavior,” he added, the BBC reports.

Paccelli asked: “Who is Amanda Knox? Is she the mild-mannered, fresh-faced person you see here, or the one devoted to lust, drugs and alcohol that emerges from the court documents?”

Amanda Knox

Knox was convicted in 2009 of killing Kercher four years ago, during what prosecutors term a drug-crazed sex orgy. Problem is, there is absolutely no evidence of her guilt. The case is based solely on “impression” of an Italian prosecutor who’s under fire for fouling up the earlier, separate “Beast of Turin” serial-murder investigation; all indications point to him cooking up this travesty to divert attention from his gross incompetence.

Evidence proves a drifter named Rudy Guede raped and murdered Kercher, then burglarized the apartment she shared with Knox. Guede was given a lesser sentence for agreeing to implicate Knox and her boyfriend. Lumumba was implicated at suggestion of police, after marathon interrogation sessions of Knox – one lasting more than 50 hours.

Hysterical sensationalism has surrounded the case, based mostly on the fact Knox is a beautiful young American – and wet-dream Euro fantasy of an evil Yankee Lolita. Up to now, her appeal seemed to be going her way. But prosecutors are threatening to bump up her sentence with overwhelming new evidence, undoubtedly as fabricated as the rest of this kangaroo-court proceeding. Now coverage is shifting back against her. And that’s unsurprising, since much of the journalism about Knox seems more Daily Racing Form than Associated Press.

- Sept. 26, 2011

Nothing to see here, hike on…

OK, we have yet another “joyous reunion” story. We love that here in America. I guess.

Two young American “hikers” who strayed into Iranian territory in 2009 have been freed. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal flew into Oman yesterday and immediately went into seclusion, reportedly with their families. Third wheel on this international-incident trio, Sarah Shourd, was released by Iran last year.

This at least puts out one flame in the fiery relationship between the U.S. and the Persian giant. America has surrounded Iran with military forces, pushed for more-stringent embargoes against it, supports a bizarre Leftwing cult carrying out terrorism in Iran, and turns a blind eye to Israeli fiddling in Kurdish territory, including arming Kurdish rebels for even more attacks against Israel’s “existential enemy”. Bauer was reportedly in the area to “cover Kurdish elections”.

Bauer, left, Shourd and Fattal last year

The two were freed for a million in essentially ransom money. Shourd got out for half of that. A Reuters story published in Israel’s Ha’aretz claims the Arabian kingdom of Oman put up the money.  OK. Sure.

The way our media covered this story, you’d think the 1979 hostage crisis was being replayed. That long ordeal, in which the new revolutionary Iranian regime imprisoned American embassy staff for 15 months, sank an American presidency and left us estranged from our old Cold-War “ally”. Actually, it was easy to understand Iran’s antagonism, since we’d overthrown its elected government years before. We’re still talking regime-change for Tehran, which doesn’t help re-establish ties.

But the big bugaboo in our approach to Iran now is our approach to Israel, which isn’t really an approach as much as a biological union. Israel wants Iran removed as potent foe; with Syria, it’s last of Israel’s regional enemies still standing. For years, Tel Aviv has been threatening Iran with military attack on a nuclear weapons program for which there’s no proof of existence.

With all that in play, these young hostages failed to catch fire as outrage sensation here in the U.S. I can attest there was no water-cooler conversation or party-chatter about their predicament. Media made a big deal about it, but our media these days makes big deals out of a lot of things ignored by Main Street America. The era of shallow, echo-chamber journalism is upon us.

So… who did put up the bond money – or whatever it’s called? One reason I want to know is Bauer’s snotty comment upon landing in Oman:

“Two years is too long in a prison,” Bauer said at Oman’s airport. “We sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in America and in Iran.”

Regardless of whether his statement is true, or even whether American taxpayers bailed his ass out of Iranian lockup, that’s a spit-in-the-face after all this country’s diplomatic maneuvering to free the trio.

And one more thing never cleared up, as I’ve noted before: What were three young American Jews doing hiking on the Iraq-Iran border – so close to the Persian state a case could be made for spying?

- Sept. 22, 2011

Leaving behind some of “No Child Left Behind”.

One of many gaping flaws in the Bush Administration’s overhaul of public school funding – No Child Left Behind – was that on the basis of “benchmark” testing which measured progress of students year by year, some low-scoring schools would be labelled “failed” and forced to undergo drastic restructuring, or lose federal funding. That would essentially close these underperforming schools.

So states pressured school districts to improve student scores, and districts pressured school principals and principals squeezed teachers to accomplish the same thing. In some cases, scores were fudged, and poorly performing students were passed on to the next grade, for that teacher to deal with. Some students graduated Middle School lacking the basic skill intended to be instilled by public education: To guarantee each citizen can read.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, one of the backers of “NCLB”, is introducing a bill to rework this Republican brainstorm. According to McClatchy:

The measures would do this, the lawmakers say, by giving states and school districts greater flexibility to improve state accountability systems, improve teacher and principal professional development programs, consolidate federal education programs to give state and local education leaders more freedom in meeting local needs and expand the number of charter schools.
That local autonomy is crucial to public education, really. It’s harder to see homegrown problems and strengths from Washington, so far from the schoolyard flagpole. And educational policy shouldn’t be so… draconian.
- Sept, 20, 2011
They just don’t think like us – and who’d want to?

Our relationship with Israel comprises a good deal of  “elephant in the room” facets – cooperative undertaking of which everyone is aware and no one speaks. One of these is incorporation of Israeli security techniques in American operations in the Mideast. On one hand, Israeli advice is valuable because they’ve for decades successfully defended their small state, surrounded by enemies. But sometimes these efforts schlep along some dark baggage.

“Enhanced interrogation” techniques including sleep deprivation and degrading treatment were condemned in a 1995 Amnesty International report on Israel’s General Security Services; they’ve all been employed in our new approach to justice and human rights, Torquemada-style. The famous Time cover on Abu Ghraib – showing a hooded prisoner standing on an ammo box, his body wired for electroshock torture – was torment pioneered in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon against unfortunates suspected of being or hanging out with Hezbollah guerrillas; it was dementedly nicknamed “the Christmas tree”.

In a column today, Justin Raimondo takes a look at FBI training manuals which paint Muslims as just this side of “little Eichmanns”, to borrow Ward Churchill’s depraved phrase. And along with the program tags this little snippet of one-sided ideology:

The lunacy doesn’t end there, however: a document entitled “Militancy Considerations” has a graph that charts the violent tendencies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to this work of graphical genius, Judaism underwent a very brief period of orienting toward violence that began to be ameliorated starting in 1400 B.C. – a factoid the Palestinians will be thrilled to hear about. Christianity, in contrast, started out pretty violently – which should be news to fans of the Sermon the Mount – and only started to approximate the relative peacefulness of Judaism around the year 1900, where the two lines on the graph representing the two religions meet and merge.

Islam, however, is an entirely different story: here the line goes up very briefly, charting the course of what the FBI describes as the “Meccan period,” but then goes sideways – toward increasing violence – in a straight line, after entering what is termed the “Medina period.”

When agents emerge from these re-education camps, any wonder how they see their foes – and us?

- Sept. 16, 2011

Best you go your way and I’ll go mine…

When the Tea Party first began two years ago, I thought it might be a genuine, populist uprising of mom-and-pop America against Washington and our detached elites. That sector of the nation – so demeaned and disregarded by both political poles – needs to find its voice. The restlessness and coarse honesty of its early incarnation was somehow repellant and invigorating at the same time – much like the country itself.

But the movement, if it can be called that, was instantly co-opted by deep-pockets corporate “interests”, and became one more megaphone in their domination of political exchange. It reflects complexion and values of working America the way Dennis Miller is representative of the National Football League. I guarantee you real Main Street America won’t be deficit a wink of sleep if rich people lose their tax cuts and American business is restrained slightly in their relentless endeavors to bleed us white.

But get this – it may just be the best news Democrats have had in a long time:

Washington (CNN) - The Republican Party is split right down the middle between tea party movement supporters and those who do not support the two-and-a-half-year-old movement, according to a new national survey.

And a CNN/ORC International Poll released Thursday also highlights the differences in demographics, ideology, and temperament between the two camps. According to the survey, on some issues, the two wings of the GOP are in accord, but tea party activists and supporters do not speak for the entire Republican Party on issues such as the deficit, global warming, evolution, abortion, gay marriage, the Federal Reserve, the Department of Education, or Social Security.

Since Democrats are so adept at turning advantage into the Hindenberg, a torn-asunder GOP may give them the boost they need to survive next year’s elections. I’m old enough to remember what a fragmented party did to Democrats in ’72. One lump or two, teabaggers?

- Sept. 15, 2011

Back to waiting for the next ‘Whew, that was close’ moment…

So markets are mildly rebounding after that close shave “over there”, when it seemed all of Europe’s strange political chickens were coming home to roost. Our banks and Wall Street are scared shitless The Mighty Continent’s overspending socialist duchies are going to default on fat loans we’ve made them (which means China now owns all this dodgy paper). Greece and a couple of other midget states go, Italy will follow, then the whole kit and kaboodle is down the drain.

Over here, money is sucked up and held where it’s most comfortable – with our super-rich. Europe, dastards,  have been using all our bank’s bountiful loans allowing workers to retire at age 50, take 6-10 week annual vacations, save their lives with socialized medicine and get free child-care. All the amenities someone else’s cash can buy, in other words. Those folks are smart, gotta hand it to them. Shake Karl Marx in front of their elites and they cave in on everything. We can’t even get decent healthcare in this confused, stupid country.

The funniest development in the last few days – which were collectively unfunny, by the way – was Italy’s finance minister, who’s in the past decried China’s “reverse colonialism,” going hat-in-hand to the Hermit Kingdom for scraps of largesse.

(U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy) Geithner said at the Seeking Alpha investor conference in New York that Europe needed to shore up global confidence that it can handle the crisis stemming from unsupportable debt loads in countries like Greece, Portugal and Ireland… But he said he believed they had the will, tools and financing to handle the crisis. [AFP]

Everyone assumes this will spool out like the ’70s, when bad loans defaulted by our banana-republic “allies” around the world caused U.S. banks to go to Congress, which in turn allowed them to drain Americans of everything they own to cover the losses. Adjustable interest rates, bizarre fees crammed into our accounts and 100-percent interest (aka loansharking) were among tools banks employed to recoup losses from their own blind greed.

Tough to do this time around, though. There aren’t that many Americans who can pay much more; families must get usurious credit just to scape by. The cupboard has been looted.

- Sept. 14, 2011

 That didn’t take so long, did it?

So, it seems before they’ve even caught Qaddafi, or Khadafy, or however his name is spelled this week, rebels who’ve at least chased him to outskirts of Tripoli have started squabbling among themselves. Can civil war be far behind? Is Billy Graham Protestant?

Sharp splits are already emerging in the ranks of Libya’s new rulers between Islamic conservatives and more secular figures competing for power even as the leadership begins to settle in Tripoli and start creating a post-Moammar Gadhafi government… Each side accuses the other of trying to monopolize a new government. On one side stand more secular technocrats, some of whom have long lived abroad or once had ties with Gadhafi’s regime. On the other are conservatives, including the Muslim Brotherhood, who opposed Gadhafi for years on the ground in Libya and suffered during his rule.

We can be pretty damn sure our government isn’t giving aid and support to the pious side of the equation. Traditionally, somewhere in this juncture, CIA operations offstage will help propel “truly democratic”, and oddly West-friendly, faction to power. There will be troublesome and somewhat bloody mopping up – executions, exiles and the like – before Libya is fully Jeffersonian.

Qaddafi must be laughing his daffy ass off.

- Sept. 13, 2011

Tet in a wringer…

It would be cliche to suggest similarities between “multi-pronged” attacks by the Taliban on targets in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul – especially zeroing in on the American Embassy – and a long-ago milestone in history of America’s haphazard empire. Another U.S. embassy was under assault 43 years ago, during the Tet Offensive in what was then South Vietnam. That little upheaval was tactically devastating for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese – they lost entire divisions of troops and almost all their supplies for campaigning in the south. But it was strategic victory beyond their wildest dreams. After months of being told U.S. military could see now-legendary “light at the end of the tunnel”,  and that final victory was in sight, the lunar new year attack destroyed that misconception, and turned against the war decisive balance of American people.

I’m going to go all cliche here and suggest attacks on Kabul itself might just do the same for the Afghan war – assuming there are Americans still in favor of this quagmire crusade.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the assaults were aimed at thwarting plans to hand over security to Afghan forces but they would not succeed… President Barack Obama has announced a plan to gradually draw down the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and hand over all security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014… But violence in the country is at its worst since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, weeks after the September 11 attacks on the United States, with high levels of foreign troop deaths and record civilian casualties.

Earlier this year, Gen. David Petraeus, our media Caesar, said we just needed a little more effort and that now is not the time to diminish our resolve. After a decade in this pit, that’s not argument for staying - it’s reason for shrugging off this fruitless war and heading home. We’ve wreaked enough havoc on Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve done nothing for these bleeding nations, and everything to them.

We’re throwing away our blood and treasure. Some of the best of us have been killed for nothing.

Enough.

- Sept. 13, 2011

Merciful heaven and cooler heads prevailed.

Despite all his irrascible tough-act and brusqueness, Dick Cheney never actually wore a uniform, shouldered a weapon and, y’know, experienced mind-bending terror of combat. I haven’t either, full disclosure, but neither have I presented myself as a gruff, know-it-all Wilfred Brimley of warmongers. Cheney’s service to his country mostly was in bureaucratic shadows at very high levels until he served in Congressional office and then landed as No. 2 man in the Bush Administration, where his 24/7 job was turning our Constitution into a pile of fresh, sticky No. 2.

Now, it seems the military overruled this perennial bad penny on that fateful Sept. 11 a decade ago. Newly released audio compiled by the 9/11 Commission has been released by the Rutgers Law Review, and reveal the military ignored Cheney’s infamous order to shoot down “rogue aircraft” as the attacks were underway. Instead, commanders told pilots to identify them, and, failing that, radio in for further instructions.

Cheney’s order was given at “about 10:15″ a.m., according to the former VP’s memoirs, but the 9/11 Commission Report shows United flight 93 going down at 10:06 a.m. Had the military followed Cheney’s order, civilian aircraft scrambling to get out of the sky could have been shot down, exponentially amplifying the day’s tragedy.

No shit. Cheney has been out on the radio mike and make-up chair circuit, shilling his memoir. It’s interesting this new release comes smack dab in the middle of that. He’s managed to alienate and/or enrage a lot of the people he worked with back in the day, showing himself the scabrous back-stabber I always suspected. Now he has the gall to advise Hillary Clinton to run against Obama. This inescapable national millstone loves his little jokes – doesn’t he?

In the past, in Depression, crisis and war, we’ve had fortune to have some of the best men in high office who possibly could’ve been there – Lincoln, Roosevelt, even Nixon eventually made good his promise to end the Vietnam War. For 9/11, we were saddled with brute clowns Bush and Cheney; if ever we wondered how coddled frat boys would run things if misfortune somehow put them at the helm, now we know.

Blow me, Dick.

- Sept. 8, 2011

Thanks for the billions and battleware – now drop dead!

Following up an interesting report in Politico, I Googled “Gates+Israel+ungrateful” and – woooo-lawdy! – got quite a lot of info on ex-Defense Secretary Robert Gates going all existential enemy on the biggest elephant in the room. Shockingly, he said aloud in a meeting awhile ago what everyone with even half a brain already knows:  Israel is a grateful ally the way Jack the Ripper was a feminist. Also interesting is how our big guns in media closed ranks and dumped this somewhat topical, certainly unique story in a lead-plated isotope crucible. Note I wrote “interesting”, not “surprising”.

I followed Politico’s link over to the original story in Bloomberg (!) by former IDF screw Jeffrey Goldberg and found something that gladdened my heart:

It was an extraordinary scene: President Barack Obama, sitting impassively in the Oval Office in May as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lectured him, at considerable length and at times condescendingly, on Jewish history, Arab perfidy and the existential challenges facing his country.

Gates: Thanks for nothin'

What was extraordinary wasn’t the message – it was not an untypical Netanyahu sermon. What was notable was that Netanyahu was lecturing the president live on television, during a photo opportunity staged so that the two leaders could issue platitudes about the enduring bonds between their nations.

That display of impudence left the president and his team feeling unusually angry. …It was Robert M. Gates, the now-retired secretary of defense, who seemed most upset with Netanyahu. In a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee held not long before his retirement this summer, Gates coldly laid out the many steps the administration has taken to guarantee Israel’s security – access to top- quality weapons, assistance developing missile-defense systems, high-level intelligence sharing – and then stated bluntly that the U.S. has received nothing in return, particularly with regard to the peace process.

Senior administration officials told me that Gates argued to the president directly that Netanyahu is not only ungrateful, but also endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank.

Jesus KFC Christ! Just open ‘er up and let the damn cat out of the bag, why don’tcha? This is as anathema in American media as mentioning the nonexistent Israel Lobby that has every fuckin’ lawmaker on Captitol Hill join a White House delegation each year down at the American Israel Political Action Committee gala. Y’know – AIPAC – that nest of spies that gets away with everything but video uploading Hillary Clinton waxing her calves. (But then… why would they want to?)

We give Israel billions a year in free money, loan guarantees and state-of-the-art military hardware that cost us a bundle to R&D, and which our brave li’l ally reverse engineers, reproduces and undersells to our would-be customers. In return we get… zip, nada, zero, boo-hah, space… NOTHING! They don’t even set us up with sweet bud and bangin’ chicks who’ll bend over for Burger King fries.

Oh… wait. I’m rash. Here’s a report on the very subject over at Antiwar.com that pings back to this interesting tidbit:

A court case against a translator who leaked US government secrets was conducted in secret because it centred on the revelation that the FBI had eavesdropped on Israeli embassy phone calls, it was revealed yesterday… (Shemai) Leibowitz passed (a blogger) about 200 pages of verbatim records of phone calls and conversations between embassy officials, saying that he believed the documents revealed Israeli officials trying unlawfully to influence US policy and edging towards military action against Iran.

The Heft That Dare Not Speak Its Name never rests. And don’t you dare speak its name, either.

- Sept. 7, 2011

Clarity is first victim of political correctness.

It’s sometimes amusing the lengths to which Western media goes to sift news through its bizarrely lop-sided view of reality. For example, as street chaos tore through English cities last month, very few British news sources printed or broadcast the fact that almost all rioters were black or immigrant. What’s that? It doesn’t matter? Then why was race of rioters  never mentioned unless they were white? Perhaps embarrassingly, this diligence gave mute testimony to how rarely white rampagers looted stores of HD TVs and burned cars.

…Can’t have everything.

Those riots prompted British government to ban temporarily all marches in the country. Well… the government says the ban is temporary. Today, a Rightwing group decided to defy the ban and police swooped in, along with a counter-demonstration of about 1,500 “anti-fascist” marchers. The English Defense League protest drew about 1,000 (somehow we knew the Rightwingers would be estimated in smaller numbers), and was aimed at British immigration policy the EDL alleges has filled the country with Islamic radicals. The Associated Press saw fit to note:

The group also has been linked to Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who killed 77 people in his country on July 22. Breivik, an anti-immigration extremist, had posted admiring comments of the English Defense League online, but the league has said police have not investigated it in relation to that attack.

Most of this “linking” has been done by newspapers and broadcasters. Actually just about every rightwing group in Europe has been investigated in wake of the Norway atrocity, with obvious hopes that some connections would be found to make them good candidates for official suppression. So, now we have a tiny group supposedly pressing the case for England’s despised white native population (horrors!), possibly connected to a mass-murderer of children (birds of a feather, you know). And to make matters worse, they’re violent.

Some of the far-right protesters threw bottles and scuffled with police surrounding them to keep control, and authorities arrested five people for offenses, including drug possession and being drunk and disorderly, police said… Still, police said most of the demonstrators in both groups remained peaceful.

Hmm. I almost called AP for clarification on this. It sounds like only far-right protestors got rough – but police say most demonstrators in both groups remained peaceful. Most isn’t all, which indicates there were some who didn’t maintain placid decorum in the sanctified counter-demonstration – righteously opposed to this honkie right wing. Perhaps some rocks and bottle got hurled. Maybe there was scuffling with police… All of which is ignored by the AP story, and I’ll bet the balance of British press.

But, god knows, don’t say you heard this from me…

Actually, the EDL is something of a racist collection of throwbacks with an agenda as shifty as American banking practices, and I’m sure store and property owners looted and burned didn’t give a hoot about color of those assailing them. But there’s an oddball approach to this stuff today. It’s is if media wants to refabricate reporting – and thereby, history – to fit precepts which do not and cannot match any reality we commonly experience. Why not just tell the truth? If rioters have reason to be restive, report it. But look into it, as well. Now British press is following passively explanations that a raft of state oppression created a powderkeg of social unrest which unavoidably exploded, blah, blah, blah. That’s how it was apprised in France a few years ago, and the U.S. a half-century back.

What would really take courage our public scribes no longer possess (if ever they did) is to sift through all these rote explanations – certified by nothing more than virtuously PC social science – and check them for validity. These were the same civic diagnoses trotted out in the U.S. from the ’60s to now – from the same philosophically Lefty camp.

It’s never been questioned. …And so nothing has changed.

- Sept. 3, 2011

OK, dammit, it IS news fit to print!

One strike against WikiLeaks, as far as our do-nothing “fifth estate” is concerned, is that the international clearinghouse of American skullduggery is doing the job stateside journalists were supposed to do the past decade – and did everything but.

Yanks are not alone. Typical of the West’s establishment press is this appraisal by Britain’s Independent, which struggles mightily to write off Julian Assange and his homegrown cyber-insurgency, then finds itself tallying up scoops in the new release that have little to do with U.S. embassy gossip:

In January 2006, for example, the American embassy in Stockholm detailed how 120 Chinese children who arrived in Sweden as refugees had gone missing over the previous two years, victims of a Europe-wide smuggling network that the authorities were struggling to get a handle on. A cable from Canberra revealed that American officials were so concerned about the state of Australia’s air-safety system in 2009 that they considered downgrading Australian airlines flying to the States.

That’s something anyone who can afford a vacation Down Under these days may want to know.

Grudgingly, media has admitted leak-revealed massacre of an Iraqi family – and call for airstrikes to cover it up – is a genuine news item. It went as dead as the victims for five years, since there was no reason to poke into the atrocity. Our military, of course, was ready to call it justified. God knows, five-year-olds are as perilous as roadside bombs if they’re fanatical Muslims.

Salon pokes through some other revelations in the latest cable release, including a rather fascinating profile of American Jewish settlers in illegal West Bank settlements. Strange. These folks probably would be supporters of civil rights and liberal voters if they still lived in Great Neck and Burbank. Once in the mix, though, their fall-back is as ancient and understandable as human history itself: You stand by your tribe, period. Egalitarianism sells only when it costs nothing for the high-minded.

At least now I realize how justified I am in ignoring all that “one world” prattle.

 - Sept. 2, 2011

 More evidence we see what we want to see.

 Some people look at a car and are mildly interested in model, make, year. Some people see a neutral means of transportation. Others – the loudest, nowadays – see an evil engine of pollution wrecking our wondrous blue marble in space.

In that ‘I see tomato, not tomahto” vein, and with eve of the 10th anniversary of you-know-what coming up, the Pew Research Center polls Muslim Americans and reports,

…No indication of increased alienation or anger among Muslim Americans in response to concerns about home-grown Islamic terrorists, controversies about the building of mosques and other pressures that have been brought to bear on this high-profile minority group in recent years. There also is no evidence of rising support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans.

So… USA Today, always so fulsomely middle-of-the-road it could be mistaken for broken white lines, reports results as proof Muslim Americans have moderate views. OK. All well and good, particularly for the multiculties always straining to populate our already-diverse nation with even more colorful cultures to make it all splashy and interesting. …Or… something. There’s gotta be some reason for it, right? Immigrant-flooding also has practical argumment: We need new wage-earning taxpayers to keep flush our social programs in a country growing more grey every day.

Whatever.

But leave it to combative Rep. Peter King, badly carpeted NY Republican, to read the same results and note “21 percent of Muslims have observed support for extremism in their communities”.

King is disappointed by that. In fact, he seems disappointed we can’t throw out Muslims entirely. As one of a circle of “Islamophobes” that have nested around issues like the “9/11 mosque” and incidents like the Ft. Hood shootings two years ago, King operates a kind of unofficial Congressional HUAC probing what he sees as violent fanatics. Trouble is, King seems to think all Muslims fall under that heading.

That kind of stuff disappoints the rest of us, Rep. King.

- Aug. 30, 2011

Look at it this way – at least we know where they stand…

A question often voiced in all this ‘Arab Spring’ upheaval is, “Will these new regimes be better or worse, friendly or unfriendly to the West and you-know-who?”

In many of these emerging… uh… republics, Arab nationalists and Muslim extremists seem to have a heavier say in new-government formation than we’d like, both as oil consumers and fanatically loyal friends of Israel.

Well, at least one footnote has been cleared up by Libyan rebels – they’re not going to turn over the Lockerbie bomber, and I can’t fault them. There have been calls to extradite Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi ever since the UK turned him loose for “humanitarian reasons” two years ago. That decision by the Tony Blair government was dipped in sweet Libyan crude, it was later revealed; the terrorist-for-oil deal arranged by big-hearted British Petroleum almost demolished Blair’s Labor Party and still is seen as a major blow to British prestige. Supposedly, al-Megrahi was dying of cancer, but he sure seems to bucket along nicely back in his homeland.

  • Update: Seems as of 5 p.m. PT today, al-Megrahi is in a coma and near death. Well, those numbers come up, Abbie.

The bombing of Pan Am Flight 108 over Lockerbie, Scotland took lives of dozens, including some on the ground. It was the West’s major anti-Islamic terror rallying point pre-9/11. Particularly galling was al-Megrahi’s hero’s welcome in Tripoli when he was freed.

But as the Libyan rebels have said, al-Megrahi has been judged once and won’t be again. And I agree. We can’t reverse decisions just because they’re politically embarrassing. Britain’s government at the time, and especially Blair himself, proved just how callous and mandacious they could be. But… it’s done. We get over it. …And remember.

- Aug. 28, 2011

Thank God it’s shoe-fall day.

Everyone in the financial sector has been waiting for the other oxford to hit the floor since last month, when Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke signaled he has another big-boy “stimulus” in mind. Now… this is the kind of stimulus that the far Right doesn’t lambaste. You won’t hear it condemned by Sean Hannity or any of the other fanatics on Fox; talk-radio airwaves go all placid and mushy.

In money talk this is called “easing”. The FED did this before by buying up all that bad paper on which banks hinged their fortunes in run-up to Black September three years ago, when the bottom fell out of the overpriced mortgage market and almost took the country with it. These mortgages were packaged as securities which guaranteed shaky “instruments” like derivatives. So, if the insurance on something is worthless, how much worth does the insured itself have?

All that sideshow gambling in the first decade of the millennium left a big ragged hole where value and investment used to be. The FED already has engaged in about $2.3 TRILLION worth of “easing”. So… this new round undoubtedly will strain the ol’ federal cupboard somewhat. No easing there…

Crazy Wall Street, BofA going squat. What next? Anyway, Bernanke will make his intentions known Friday in a speech in Jackson Hole, WY, which has become the hot-spot for our elite for some reason. Certainly, it’s out of the way. Yes… that must be it.

- Aug. 24, 2011

The connected walk as the common rot.

I guess, since they had his DNA evidence collected from the victim, Manhattan’s District Attorney’s office assumed that it’s true – that their sexual encounter was consensual – as grounds for dropping sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former International Monetary Fund chief.

And as far as the office’s explanation that any case they brought would be harpooned by the accusers’ “lack of credibility”, one must wonder that none of the discrediting factors cited have anything to do with, or directly invalidate, her accusations against Strauss-Kahn.

The hotel maid accused Strauss-Kahn of assaulting her in May, when he was put up in and she was working for the Sofitel in New York. It looked for a time like an international titan might fall for a mighty “indiscretion” – so major crime is called at that level. Down here, it’s still simply “major crime”, and we go to jail if no exculpatory evidence discrediting an accuser is linked to the case.

There it is, F. Scott Fitzgerald. You were right” The rich really are different. And I’m a little nauseous.

- Aug. 22, 2011

I’ve been called a jackass before, so it really doesn’t bother me. And although I risk that here, admit, at least, I’m being honest:

What were three young American Jews doing – hiking so close to Iran’s border?

Their story , which Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer stuck to throughout their trial which just wound up, is that they were just taking the mountain air in the rugged, somewhat dangerous region where Kurdistan butts up against the Persian Giant. Iran, as we know, has been described by Israeli politicians as that country’s “existential enemy.

Originally, they were arrested with Bauer’s fiance. She returned to the U.S. last year for medical reasons and they stayed to stand trial; yesterday, they were sentenced to eight years in prison for spying. Iranians claim they have proof the two are connected to American intelligence, but it may just be they suspect of espionage any Americans tromping around their high ground. I’m not sure how we’d respond to a Iranian backpackers straying across our border, especially from Mexico. Let’s close our eyes and try to imagine that fall-out among the American media’s “attack Iran” crowd.

In addition to his love of hiking, Bauer also is a journalist, and was planning to cover elections in Kurdistan. I’m sure Iranians considered that a cover story, especially since traditional recruiting ground for agents of any country’s spy agencies has been among journalists.

The Kurdistan connection is interesting, as well, since Israel has been developing a close relationship with Kurdistan – to the point of training Kurdish commandos who’ve reportedly made attacks inside Iran.

Already, there have been some hostile reports in the American press over this development. But… What do we really know here? Surely, their families are suffering in all this.

- Aug. 20, 2011

We know a phenomenon is undeniable, when mainstream media is hauled kicking and screaming to notice it.

Yesterday, I was dumbfounded when L.A. radio KFWB actually reported a story sympathetic to “maverick” presidential candidate and longtime libertarian Ron Paul. Roger Simon was interviewed about his Politico piece which gently lambasted the mainstream media for utterly ignoring Paul’s success in the Iowa straw poll over the weekend. Trumpeting victory of Michelle Bachmann apparently was within bounds of newsworthiness, but Paul’s loss to her by 9/10s of one percent apparently was dog-bites-man stuff – utterly insignificant. Simon said the media writes off Paul as nutlog – because the media in large part has painted him that way!

And I don’t disagree that some of his beliefs — legalizing heroin, the right of states to secede — are strikingly peculiar (though he has been elected to a congressional district in Texas 12 times). But if Bachmann’s victory at Ames was good enough to gain her enormous publicity and top-tier status, why was Paul’s virtual tie good enough only to relegate him to being ignored?

We’ve lived within framework of a deconstructed Constitution so long, a lot of libertarian views seem bizarre simply because they interpret the nation’s framing charter without chrome and whitewalls of contemporary social orthodoxy. ‘What! We shouldn’t be invading other countries and making war at will! Outrageous!’

I can’t help but think his consistent antiwar positions are key factor in diagnosing his “nuttiness”. Powerful, entrenched interests like the Israel Lobby wanted Iraq invaded, so any talk about quitting is anathema. Don’t be too surprised if we get a troop-number paring instead of total withdrawal later this year. And you can be sure our media will fall in line behind counter-reasoning for the decision.

Paul is a little too strict a libertarian for me to support, but I admire him. In 2008 he was the only candidate on the podium to link American conservatives to our Mideast Imperium Project. That’s like making connection between damp iron and rust.

- Aug. 17, 2011

OK, Blue Cross. OK, The Hartford. You win…

It may seem today’s ruling by a U.S. Appeals Court in Atlanta strikes a blow for consumer freedom by striking down the healthcare reform provision “mandating” that Americans buy private insurance. But by contradicting a ruling in June by another federal appeals panel, this decision guarantees final say will come from the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. Given the history of this court, that’s guarantee the mandate will be OK’d.

Present lineup on the top court hasn’t encountered a case yet in which it’s come down against America’s business interests. The mandate is a boon for insurance companies – just as single-payer, federally funded healthcare would be for working Americans. So, we know how this one will fall.

Nevertheless, the language today is impressive:

“This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives.

In today’s new order, government can unduly benefit commercial interests to detriment of average-income individuals, but not the other way around. There’s ‘just’ and then there’s ‘just for us, sucker’.

Kudos for trying to the Atlanta court. Those words are reminiscent of long-ago days when our democracy wasn’t engineered exclusively to syphon money upward.

- Aug. 12, 2011

The tragic murder of a gay teen and subsequent trial of his killer got me thinking about how politics mixes with justice. It does so as well as art and politics combine: The two are put together to devastating detriment of both. There’s an art show/happnin’ called L.A. vs War that proves this out; rarely has there been better illustration of just how silly creative types look trying to tell us war is bad for children and other living things. No shit, Sherlock. How did you happen upon that gemstone revelation? Go out on the street and find a dozen people in favor of war. Please… amaze us, inspire us. But don’t make political pronouncements. It’s not artists’ forte to do so, and after half a century of relentlessly ignoring this fact, the rest of us are fed up with all the pretense and presumptive insipidity. Time to give it a rest, Picasso. It’s prompted way too much really bad art as it is.

Justice and politics, lets face it, are inseparable – but should be kept wide apart. It’s just impossible to do so. Brandon McInerney, was 14 when he shot 15-year-old Larry King in the back of the head in a class at an Oxnard high school in 2008. There’s no question he pulled the trigger; his horrified classmates bear witness. His defense – his only one – is that he was driven to rage by King’s constant sexual taunting.

Anti-hate rally outside Oxnard courthouse

On basis of “white supremacist” material supposedly found in his bedroom, prosecutors are trying to make this a fascist homophobe killing. McInerney’s brother has testifed the material is his, schoolteachers have testified King had a habit of making sexualized statements to other kids, and a counselor has said under oath McInerney told her King’s harassment antagonized him. The picture drawn of McInerney from testimony shows him product of a broken, abusive home, savaged by alcoholism and near-poverty. Nevertheless, he was an honors student and popular athlete.

That’s about all we know for sure.

Whatever the circumstances of this case, King did not deserve to be murdered. But given incendiary nature of Left-Right, gay-straight politics in a post-Matthew Shepard world, it must be noted a case for hate crime is on very shaky ground here. Unless more proof is offered that McInerney was a skinhead lunatic murderously hate-filled toward homosexuals – especially ones half-black, as was King – prosecutors have no business trying to juice up their resumes by turning this into misguided crusaders’ cause of the week.

That adds more outrage on this tragedy.

- Aug. 11, 2011

Never say ‘never been in a riot’…

Back in the ’70s, a still-alive punk band called the Mekons issued “Never Been in a Riot”, which was ridiculing response to The Clash’s “White Riot”, a fatuous call to arms in vinyl, 45 and 33.3 rpm. We gotta rebel against the… bourgeosie… uh… establishment. And replace it with more imperfect humans maybe a little more delusional?

Well, post-menopausal punks can drive over to Tottenham to seal up that experience gap. London has been rocked by several days of full-on rioting, and now troubles are spreading to other English cities. …Just like Paris a few years ago, and, of course, every major American city in the ’60s. This is one time we can wink at the Ancien Régime of Europe and sniff, “been there, done that”.

Astoundingly, there hasn’t been a lot of once-trendy soul-searching, finding common-cause with rioters, and even sympathizing with their motivations – all of which marked response of America’s hypocritical Lefty observers to our own burning times decades ago. Mostly, Brits are keeping those upper lips quite stiffish. After all, London hosts the Olympics next year.

With so many people joining forces to mend our city there will hopefully many more positive stories emerging from this anarchy as the days go on. London’s a huge, restless city and you need stamina and smarts to live here. The people of London are too strong to let this city be held to siege. [Telegraph]

I remember reading Europe’s press during ’60s rioting, appalled at warped reporting that had America finally revealed as oppressive monster it really was. Compared to all those perfect societies, I’m sure we were and are.

So… name a perfect society. …Just one.

- Aug. 9, 2011

Day One for Deebo Nation.

Within milliseconds after opening bell, the stock market fell through the floor in a sell-off panic. Talking-head market-watchers projected and pondered what Wall Street might do on its first working day saddled with downgraded U.S. credit-rating. The sweaty bear’s flop-squat was no surprise.

The White House has attacked the downgrade, a reaction also expected. And, like clockwork, Standard & Poor has struck back, defending its Friday move and pinning our tarnished reputation as world’s credit standard on the recent, three-ring debt confrontation in Congress, as well as hyperspending by the federal government.

This is a bitter pill coming from one of the architects of the 2008 economic meltdown. It was Standard & Poor and Moody’s – the world’s biggest and most-powerful credit-rating firms – that gave Triple-A ratings to all those junk securities backing financial-world bingo. “Instruments” like derivatives were certified by securities made up of wildly overpriced home mortgages, and when that bubble popped, so did we.

You’d think status and power of these two insider shysters would’ve sunk lower than American home values – but, no, they survived and prospered right along with banks that frittered away the national nest egg in Bush-era floating crap games.

Already, conspiracy-minded have proposed S&P is manipulating the economy to escape responsibility for its part in the 2008 meltdown. Me? If I were a “grassy knoll troll”, I’d say it’s part of a campaign by big money to do away with our social programs like Social Security. S&P’s explanation for the downgrade can be translated: “Until our national debt is brought under control by ridiculously painful cuts in programs that help the nation’s worthless rabble, we’re posting the nation not quite at Third World, yet… maybe Second and a Half World.” You’ll see even more pressure to lop everything but (of course) defense, subsidies, and tax breaks for the rich and corporations.

- Aug. 8, 2011

Desperate times, desperate measures?

I come from a long line of union members, including a father who was once a member of the old, ultra-proletariat Mine and Mill Workers outfit. So it’s a bit disheartening to learn at least some California labor groups may be behind a deceitful radio attempting to dampen citizen participation in government.

A group called Californians Against Identity Theft is telling voters that cheats could hijack their identities if they sign petitions; evidently, all it takes for scammers to start setting up dummy credit accounts is name and address of unknowing victims. So… if you don’t want illegal immigrants in Alabama to buy new BMWs in your good name, don’t sign these election-year hallmarks.

Scary print ad from anti-petition 'CAIT'

One acknowledged backer of CAIT is the State Building and Construction Trades Council  of California, evidently miffed at voter drives to toughen licensing and practices of contractors; home repair and rennovation in the state often are minefields, with unscrupulous builders extorting more dough from homeowners to finish half-completed work.

Another building-connected trade council also is connected to the somewhat shadowy interest group. The campaign has been, as one newspaper termed it, a “public-relations disaster” for unions. And apparently public-employee unions are in on the act, as well.

…It is no secret that the unions are deathly afraid of the Stop Special Interest Money Now Act, also in circulation, that would reduce union political influence by prohibiting government entities from being the collection agents for unions for political funds from their members.

In a separate and less-offensive move, California Service Employees International Union is deploying “Think Before You Ink” teams to talk voters out of signing the petition politicial-deduction measure.

Anti-union efforts that emerged after last year’s Tea Party victories apparently have provoked defensive tactics by some unions that are just as odious as their opponents’.

- Aug. 4, 2011

Must be the water…

We’re beginning to see just how accurate was Adm. William Fallon four years ago when he called Gen. David Petraeus an “ass-kissing little chickenshit” to his face at their first meeting in Baghdad. Petraeus is polishing his legacy as commander in still-embattled Afghanistan as he hands off the pesthole to the next sucker in line. Part of this swan-song apparently calls for being very public, very talkative.

Despite Petraeus’ telling the Wall Street Journal this week that Taliban attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had “flattened” over the past year – mostly due to his foresight and strategy, of course – figures from the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) indicate these homemade bombs planted by Afghan insurgents killed nearly 40 percent more U.S. and NATO troops in the first eight months of 2010 than in the comparable period of 2009.

Something in there doesn’t add up.

Meanwhile, Adm. Mike Mullen – who as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is Petraeus’ superior - evidently has drunk the Kool-Aid on Iran. The past few months, Mullen has been getting his hawkish feathers ruffled over the Persian giant, and now he’s sounding just this side of Netanyahu’s cabinet on the issue. He’s accused Tehran of interfering in neighboring Iraq’s feeble attempts at reconstruction (after suffering an almost 10-year bout of us), and now appears to be turning his own Pentagon leavetaking into an exit stage Right, almost obsessively banging a neoconservative-sounding “Bad Iran” drum.

If you count “half-wars” like Libya, Pakistan and Somalia, and add in all our anonymous drone strikes anywhere in the world at any given moment, we’ve got four or five wars going on. Isn’t that enough badly managed, endless bloodbaths for these guys?

- Aug. 2, 2011

WATCH LIST, May-July 2011