Thursday, October 30, 2008

Life on Murderer's Row

It certainly is a three ring circus as our “serious” presidential candidates seek to position themselves to become the next murderer in chief. I believe one of the greatest misconceptions is that at one time the Democratic Party was the peace loving and good party as conceived by today’s so-called liberals which leads our “moderate” libs to believe that all that is needed is a Democrat in office and the day will be saved.

Ask yourself this: Why is one of the main criteria for having a “serious” candidate be they Republican or Democrat that they be strong on, and trusted with, defense. As I have said before when we say the word “defense” what we really mean is war, after all, what we now call the Department of Defense was at one time more truthfully called the War Department. America has been involved in invading other nations, knocking off foreign leaders, and other manipulations all in the name of American interests for quite some time now. Just how can you construe this as defense? Our leaders construe it this way in order to turn the world upside-down in order to portray their murderous pastimes as noble and good which is a funny way to look at murder and thievery.

So just how different are the Democrats and Republicans?

On October 1, 1979 Jimmy Carter announced the existence of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) whose job was essentially to project American military violence anywhere in the world in the cause of those good old American interests. More specifically because of increases in the price of oil due to events in the Middle East the aim of the RDF was to protect American interests in the Middle East, oil.

In 1973 and '74, and again in 1979, political upheavals in the Middle East led to huge spikes in oil prices, which rose fifteenfold over the decade and focused new attention on the Persian Gulf. In January 1980, President Carter effectively declared the Gulf a zone of U.S. influence, especially against encroachment from the Soviet Union. "Let our position be absolutely clear," he said, announcing what came to be known as the Carter Doctrine. "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." To back up this doctrine, Carter created the Rapid Deployment Force, an "over-the-horizon" military unit capable of rushing several thousand U.S. troops to the Gulf in a crisis.

And thus was the groundwork laid for the first Gulf War, Desert Storm, under George Bush the elder and of course which Bush the younger carried even further, fully aided by the Democratic Party, to the savagery America has unleashed in Iraq today.

In this speech by George W. Bush we can hear echoes of the Carter Doctrine.

We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

The main difference between Carter and Bush is that Carter made no bones about clearly stating that oil was the focus of American intervention in the Middle East while with Bush it is portrayed as a battle between good and evil, a war of ideals. While Carter was more honest about the cause of intervention than Bush it hardly excuses the U.S. in its willingness to use murderous force to protect those hallowed American interests. Indeed few Americans question our right to use force in the name of our interests even when it requires the deaths of innocent people in other lands. This hardly makes America unique in the history of nations yet many Americans are convinced of our special role as saviors of the world, the last great hope.

During the build up to war with Iraq the lies that the Bush administration, and which the “liberal” news media accepted without question, told America that Saddam Hussein was pursuing WMD as in nuclear bombs which would assuredly be used against American cities are hardly original in their concept for it was a Democratic president, one Bill Clinton, that paved the way for this type of propaganda and scare tactics at least concerning Iraq.

An excerpt from a Bill Clinton State of the Union Speech:

"Together we must also confront the new hazards of chemical and biological weapons, and the outlaw states, terrorists and organized criminals seeking to acquire them. Saddam Hussein has spent the better part of this decade, and much of his nation's wealth, not on providing for the Iraqi people, but on developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. The United Nations weapons inspectors have done a truly remarkable job, finding and destroying more of Iraq's arsenal than was destroyed during the entire gulf war. Now, Saddam Hussein wants to stop them from completing their mission. I know I speak for everyone in this chamber, Republicans and Democrats, when I say to Saddam Hussein, "You cannot defy the will of the world," and when I say to him, "You have used weapons of mass destruction before; we are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again.

Shades of George Bush, this quote from Clinton sounds like it could have been a part of any one of Bush’s speeches as does the speech by Carter which became known as the Carter Doctrine when carter said:

Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

There has been a consistent policy towards the Middle East that has been carried out by every American president from Jimmy Carter to today. It is a policy of American intervention where it has been made abundantly clear America has the right to the use of unbridled violence brought to a head today with our present member of murderer’s row. Of course Bush is less gentlemanly about doing so, hides behind a rhetoric of ideals and good versus evil but is quite willing to now simply steal the oil per legislation in Iraq that would give foreign oil companies 25 to 30 year contracts, see my previous post here.

And of course this is why when candidates run for office it is the first and foremost prerequisite that they be seen as strong on defense (war) because after all we are merely electing a new murderer in chief who shall carry on that fine American tradition of violence against other nations who are unlucky enough to be found guilty of standing in the way of American interests.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A debating society

Back here I noted the difference in the definition of fascism between the 1975 and 1993.
I asked why the concept of fascism would shed the "dictatorship of the extreme right" and "the merging of state and business leadership" over those years. Identifying the "extreme right" and "business" are gone and replaced with... bullshit. In our dictionaries. Even our dictionaries are now bullshit.

A book came out about a year back, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot, former editor-in-chief of For the most part I thought it was pretty good. It gave a glimpse into what the Kennedys were thinking and doing during those days when the Kennedy brothers ran the country, and then what Bobby was thinking after his brother was murdered.

The one chapter that struck me as way out of line, though, was the one about the Jim Garrison investigation. Here was a DA investigating the murder of his brother and Robert Kennedy was beyond hostile to him. Much of the chapter relies on the recollections of Walter Sheridan, who a few years earlier had helped Bobby's investigation of Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters and the mob. It was Sheridan who kept feeding Bobby negative things about Garrison and his investigation. It was Sheridan who said that Garrison was steering clear of Mafia connections and essentially running a big hoax. Sheridan actually got time on television to run an unprecedented hour-long attack on Garrison. Something was wrong about this.

A few weeks later I received a comment from Lisa Pease on that particular piece I'd written. Pease was one of the editors of a great collection of essays, THE ASSASSINATIONS. The book covers the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK and RFK. They were all thoughtful essays, many of them based in part on formerly classified documents that were released in the 1990s. I recommend it to anyone interested in that particular era of our history.

Here's what Pease wrote to me on the Talbot book:

Talbot's book is excellent, with a couple of notable exceptions, one being the Garrison chapter, which literally made me sick to my stomach. I consider Talbot a friend, which makes it all the harder to say that.

When he first started writing his book, he was pretty convinced that the Kennedys had ordered Castro killed. I argued hard with him about that and insisted he look into the role of Sam Halpern in spreading that awful disinformation. Talbot really looked into it, and saw the truth of what I was saying. But I didn't press as hard on Sheridan, and how Sheridan's first loyalty was not to Bobby, but to the CIA. I wish now I had. But even so, Talbot's contribution to the true history of the Kennedy's is immense, and despite the upset stomach, I'm still very grateful that he wrote (most of) what he did.

So, ultimately, Sheridan was a babysitter for the Agency. He watched Bobby, fed him enough misinformation to steer him away from Garrison and his investigation. I'd bet that during the Hoffa wars Sheridan probably had been steering Kennedy away from those parts of organized crime which had been integrated with our national security state. Bobby Kennedy, who privately vowed to get to the bottom of his brother's murder, never hooked up with the best lead in the case. The rest is, well, history.

I dug into my stacks and pulled out the October 1967 issue of Playboy. Yes, I used to read Playboy for the articles. That issue has a truly remarkable interview with Jim Garrison, given by him during the time he was investigating President Kennedy's murder. Did Garrison concentrate on the CIA to the detriment of the Mafia involvement? Carlos Marcello didn't write the Warren Report.

As interesting as Garrison's interview was, with the ins and outs of his ongoing investigation, the end of it actually gave the reader a true measure of the man. The interviewer asked this:
"Where would you place yourself on the political spectrum--right, left or center?"

This is what Garrison said. In 1967. My bold:

That's a question I've asked myself frequently, especially since this investigation started and I found myself in an incongruous and disillusioning battle with agencies of my own Government. I can't just sit down and add up my political beliefs like a mathematical sum, but I think, in balance, I'd turn up somewhere around the middle. Over the years, I guess I've developed a somewhat conservative attitude--in the traditional libertarian sense of conservatism, as opposed to the thumbscrews-and-rack conservatism of the paramilitary right--particularly in regard to the importance of the individual as opposed to the state and the individual's own responsibilities to humanity. I don't think I've ever tried to formulate this into a coherent political philosophy, but at the root of my concern is the conviction that a human being is not a digit; he's not a digit in regard to the state and he's not a digit in the sense that he can ignore his fellow men and his obligations to society.

I was with the artillery supporting the division that took Dachau. I arrived there the day after it was taken, when bulldozers were making pyramids of human bodies outside the camp. What I saw there haunted me ever since. Because the law is my profession, I've always wondered about the judges throughout Germany who sentenced men to jail for picking pockets when their own government was jerking gold from the teeth of men murdered in gas chambers.

I'm concerned about all of this because it isn't a German phenomenon. It can happen here, because there has been no change and there has been no progress and there has been no increase of understanding on the part of men for their fellow man. What worries me deeply, and I have seen it exemplified in this case, is that we in America are in great danger of slowly evolving into a proto-fascist state. It will be a different kind of fascist state from the one the Germans evolved; theirs grew out of depression and promised bread and work, while ours, curiously enough, seems to be emerging from prosperity. But in the final analysis, it's based on power and on the inability to put human goals and human conscience above the dictates of the state.

Its origins can be traced in the tremendous war machine we've built since 1945, the "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower vainly warned us about, which now dominates every aspect of our life. The power of the states and Congress has gradually been abandoned to the Executive Department, because of war conditions, and we've seen the creation of an arrogant, swollen bureaucratic complex totally unfettered by the checks and balances of the Constitution. In a very real and terrifying sense, our Government is the CIA and the Pentagon, with Congress reduced to a debating society.

Of course, you can't spot this trend to fascism by casually looking around. You can't look for such familiar signs as the swastika, because they won't be there. We won't build Dachaus and Auschwitzes; the clever manipulation of the mass media is creating a concentration camp of the mind that promises to be far more effective in keeping the populace in line. We're not going to wake up one morning and suddenly find ourselves in gray uniforms goose-stepping off to work.

But this isn't the test. The test is: What happens to the individual who dissents? In Nazi Germany, he was physically destroyed; here, the process is more subtle, but the end results can be the same. I've learned enough about the machinations of the CIA in the past year to know that this is no longer the dreamworld America I once believed in. The imperatives of the population explosion, which almost inevitably will lessen our belief in the sanctity of the individual human life, combined with the awesome power of the CIA and the defense establishment, seem destined to seal the fate of the America I knew as a child and bring us into a new Orwellian world where the citizen exists for the state and where raw power justifies any and every immoral act.

I've always had a kind of knee-jerk trust in my Government's basic integrity, whatever political blunders it may make. But I've come to realize that in Washington, deceiving and manipulating the public are viewed by some as the natural prerogatives of office. Huey Long once said, "Fascism will come to America in the name of anti-fascism." I'm afraid, based on my own experience, that fascism will come to America in the name of national security.

Then the final question to him:

Considering all the criticism that has come your way, would you still launch your investigation into the assassination if you had it to do over again?

And this is what Garrison said:

As long as the men who shot John Kennedy to death in Dallas are walking the streets of America, I will continue this investigation. I have no regrets about initiating it and I have no regrets about carrying it on to its conclusion. If it takes me 30 years to nail every one of the assassins, then I will continue this investigation for 30 years. I owe that not only to Jack Kennedy but to my country.

What that crackpot district attorney, that conspiracy theorist, said back then sounds pretty rational now. It's now over forty years since he gave that interview. Garrison's dead. RFK's dead, shot dead in public like his brother. It's a different war now, different conditions, different fears, different "national security" concerns.

The world is a different place than it was in 1967, and no better for most of what the post-JFK America foisted on it. What we have now is a permanent government that seems pretty much a merging of state and business leadership. Where have I seen that before? The current administration, in the name of national security, keeps making unconstitutional claims to power and no one seems to be able to do much about it.

When the final FISA vote happened a few months ago there was a lot of anger from progressives and civil libertarians directed at Obama and other Democrats who voted for the bill. Many liberals and progressives were justifiably concerned about giving this power to George Bush.

But the analysis was flawed. The Republicans were nearly unanimous in voting for it, and they had no qualms about ceding so much power to an Obama Administration. Why, when the Republicans are willing to throw any phony scare tactic against Obama are they so unconcerned about giving real powers to the Executive Branch and a Democratic President?

The first part of the answer is easy. The phony scare tactics are just that: phony. Those are just lies to win an election, and they're not working so well this time around. The politicians who are saying them don't believe them either. The second part is easy, too, if you think about it. Those powers in the FISA bill don't accrue to the President. Those powers go to the NSA, as other recently created spying powers go to the FBI, the CIA and other agencies. That is, the President, whether he's Bush, Obama, Clinton, whoever, isn't as powerful as we were taught to believe. The President isn't in control of those agencies. The opposite is true. Because people like Bush and Cheney are consonant with our permanent government, sometimes we confuse the personification of that permanent government with the real deal.

How did our intelligence agencies get more powerful than our Presidents?

You haven't been paying attention.

I believe it was Fletcher Prouty, the Air Force colonel portrayed by Donald Sutherland in "JFK," who wrote that the reason that John Kennedy was shot dead in broad daylight in the middle of Dealey Plaza was so that everyone in the government, anyone who ever considered running for higher office, got the message. The hoi polloi could be confused or distracted by official lies regurgitated by allies in the press, or just by the enormity of the Big Lie. And they were. But the people in the know knew where the power was, who pulled the trigger.

I'd mention here that there was added symbolism that the murder occurred in downtown Dallas, the capitol of the oil business.

Granted, I've got a queasy feeling that the machines are in place to steal this election, but even if the people's will is recorded I have my doubts that the people's will will be implemented.

I'm not sure what the exact percentage is now, but the last time I checked (about a year ago) close to seventy percent of Americans wanted us out of Iraq. In 2006 the American people voted out the party that brought us the war. That party that is consonant with the permanent government. The last time anyone asked them a majority of Americans were actually ready to impeach George Bush (whose father was Director of the CIA). In 2008 we are at the edge of a landslide pushing more Republicans out of office and putting a Democrat into the White House.

For those looking forward to the second New Deal, expect the progress to be slow and halting. Expect the inexplicable when it comes to why a Democratic majority keeps failing to give us what we ask for. Expect past crimes to be left uninvestigated, expect the FBI bureaucrats to fail to look. Expect secrets to be kept. Expect bad laws to be left on the books, to be exploited when the Republicans, the party in consonance, returns to power. When the Democrats fail us, as the Carter and Clinton administrations failed us, we will look to the quality of our leaders' personalities or defects in their character. We will see weakness and deceit, but we will be using the wrong yardstick.

With such a mandate from the people what is our Congress now? A debating society. What is our President? At a certain point, only a figurehead.

We aren't going to ever get back the power we have lost until enough of us can say in public what has happened in broad daylight.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Political Translation Guide

As you may have noticed the English language in the hands of an adept politician is a strangely wondrous thing. Words become plastic to the point where the usual rules of syntax fall apart like the laws of nature cease to exist inside of a black hole. In fact when it comes to political lingo no rules apply and any given word can be attributed a new meaning by the politician speaking them without letting the listener know that they changed the meaning of said word! So in view of this marvelous epiphany I am starting a project to create a universal translation guide to political speak. I have made a modest beginning which you can read below. If anyone wishes to add to the list with their own contribution please feel free to do so.

Terrorist: 1. Usually brown people, mostly innocent women and children. 2. People who object to the United States invading their country for fun and profit. 3. Any nation that does not toe the line for U.S. imperialism.

Collateral damage: 1. Usually brown people, mostly innocent women and children.

Hope: 1. Self Delusion.

Change: 1. No change.

Humanitarian: 1. Killing brown people for their own good. 2. Invading and occupying nations so that we may steal their resources albeit for their own good. 3. Lynching foreign leaders before they can spill the beans.

Surgical air strike: 1. Assassination of suspected terrorists usually resulting in the needless deaths of many innocent women and children, usually brown. 2. Blanket bombing civilians, mostly brown people.

Democrat: 1. Republican.

Republican: 1. Same as above.

Nation Building: 1. Killing brown people for their own good. 2. Installation of puppet government in weak nations unable to defend themselves so that we may steal their resources.

Bipartisan: 1. Bowing, scraping, and fawning before Corporate America. 2. Passing the worst possible legislation.

Global War on Terror: 1. Imperialism. 2. A tool used to terrorize the citizens of one’s own nation so that a government can pass the worst possible legislation (see bipartisan).

Extraordinary Rendition: 1. Kidnapping innocent people based on bad information followed by torture and murdering the kidnapped victim.

Diplomacy: 1. Giving the intended victim an ultimatum that no one could ever accept usually followed by invasion (see nation building).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Crazy Daze

As this election grinds to its ultimate conclusion America’s war against children continues unabated. Today the NYT reports on what has become a typical story. One could spend a lot of time on how the NYT frames the story with Bush “reluctantly” giving the green light for escalating attacks inside Pakistan but what is more important is what the results of these murderous air attacks do, which is the deaths of children or what the military likes to call “collateral damage.”


On Oct. 16, a Predator strike in South Waziristan killed Khalid Habib, a senior Qaeda operative. But the strikes sometimes have unintended consequences. On Sept. 8, one in Miranshah on a compound owned by a Taliban leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, failed to kill him but did kill women and children. On Aug. 27, a Predator strike near the village of Wana missed its target; it is unclear whether civilians were killed.

Again we note how the NYT frames the story as “unintended consequences” which no doubt removes all responsibility for the deaths of innocent women and children murdered by “brave” Americans piloting killer drones from thousands of miles away well removed from the stench of death or any physical danger to themselves. I’m always amazed by the disconnect between the reality of how Americans view themselves, the murderous actions of our government, and the folly of what is probably the most unimportant election ever. After all this is what Obama has promised to continue with and escalate and in this instance I believe him.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

You What?


Do not read the following if you have a weak constitution.

As you may know, only the pure of heart can vote for or become a Democrat. This is why I have decided not to vote in this election for I am not pure of heart.

My good friend Dennis Perrin has seen the future and has released a video on this touchy topic. Go ahead and watch it here, its okay you can click the link, nothing bad will happen.

It Never Happened

According to the Dem faithful and the mainstream news media nothing ever happened, there is no history and every day, every minute, is a new beginning with a clean slate and the past is hidden behind a curtain of impenetrable fog. It was big news that Colin Powell endorsed Obama and will be one of Obama’s advisors and the news was full of glowing accounts of how Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama would lend legitimacy to Obama’s commitment to pursuing the War on Terror and protecting “innocent” Americans from the boogie man. Never mind Powell’s history as a war monger, liar, and an ass kisser to the powerful for if it helps get a Democrat in the White House that is all that matters, winning is everything.

That Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress voted to continue the Iraq War and occupation by giving Bush more money than he asked for, well that never happened either. That the Iraq War was illegal according to international law and despite that the so-called surge has been debunked as a success, well that never happened either because Obama claims that the surge has been a success. That Social Security, the most successful progressive government program in the history of the United States, will remain solvent until the year 2049 doesn’t matter because Obama says it needs to be “fixed.” That Obama said that he would not take money from lobbyists and then cheerfully accepted money form Wall Street lobbyists, well that never happened either. After all, winning is everything.

That Obama has promised to escalate an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, and here I am assuming that winning means creating a puppet government with pretensions to democracy, despite the tragic results of our “nation building” in Iraq, well that doesn’t matter either because Obama is a Democrat. Apparently all the soul searching and loud noises over the Iraq War were because it was a Republican president instead of a Democrat that led the destruction and rape of a nation that had done nothing what-so-ever against the Untied States. In fact if Obama is elected the Iraq War never happened!

That Obama has adopted Bush’s policy of illegal invasions by proclaiming he (Obama) would invade Pakistan unilaterally against the wishes of the Pakistan people, an act that would be as illegal as the Iraq War, well that doesn’t matter either because even though Obama has said we would do so he really didn’t say it because that does not fit in with the fictional Obama that the Dem faithful have formed in their minds, a kind of dream Obama I suppose.

In fact it’s a brand new day, nothing ever happened before today, the past is nothing but a malleable marshmallow to be ignored or cherry picked in order to make today’s illusions more real. All that matters is that a Democrat wins, never mind the blood drenched history of Democratic leaders or Obama’s promises to continue the blood bath in his headlong rush to power all that matters is that he belongs to the Democratic Party.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I want to believe-- hey, who doesn't?

As Rob very correctly pointed out in the previous post, "Hollow Victory,"
I responded to Mimi's question in the comments but did not really address it. Later I was looking for visual aids using the image search of "Obama+gestalt" when I came across this NYU survey regarding the '08 election, which might interest you. I will post more regarding Mimi's question shortly.

it's clickable...

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hollow Victory

We should all be happy to see the end of the Bush presidency yet that is not going to happen, not in this election. The history of American politics is a history of precedents set, that once in place never seem to go away. Every time a precedent is set it is usually another victory for the venal idiot class whom we refer to as the ruling elite. Bush has set the precedent of our asinine War on Terror , a cover for a reckless imperialism that both the Democrats and Republicans have been pursuing for years under various guises with the Democratic Party leading the way in no uncertain terms. The Democratic Party is the War Party as can be easily demonstrated by any honest look at history.

The neocons who hijacked the Republican Party are now flocking to the Obama banner, all the same bad actors who gave us the Iraq War with visions of world domination in their greedy little ape brains are returning to their point of origin the Democratic Party with Obama as the new George Bush. In fact I believe Obama may well be infinitely worse than Bush with his slick smooth talk and lies. In fact, the only thing that could stop Obama from pursuing his plans for escalating the War on Terror in Afghanistan and beginning a new war in Pakistan is if the sources of funding for our wars, China and Europe, decide to cut those funds off. All Obama has promised is that he will be smarter about pursuing war than Bush which makes Obama one of the most dangerous people on the planet. Replacing an incompetent war monger with an efficient war monger is not progress, not by any standard.

To be sure the arrogant and conceited Obama will toss his adoring flock a few crumbs from the rich man’s table but what use is that for the War on Terror is ripping the fabric of this nation apart ensuring the eventual economic demise that is already well under way. Yes, oh yes, it will be good to see George Bush leave the White House leaving a slimy snail trail behind him but I fear the victory will be a hollow one.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Slippery Scream

Ever notice when it comes to the Dem faithful that every topic is quickly reduced to political campaign tactics? This is to avoid actually thinking about what their little Dem candidate is. Take Obama for example, Obama is a smarmy slippery con artist come opportunist with absolutely no idea of what is ethical and what is not. But do the faithful want to look at that aspect of their sainted savior?


Of course the same thing holds true for the Republican Party who have a whole different set of delusions.

One of my readers, BK, wrote me that the election was more like a sporting event than anything else which I believe is right on the money. Politics is, more often than not, merely a manifestation of tribalism fraught more with emotion than any kind of analytical thinking.

What is most striking to me is that if you consider yourself to be any kind of liberal it is automatically assumed that you support Obama, another reason that any discussion of politics is quickly reduced to tactics. The question that comes to mind is that if you consider yourself to be a liberal how could you possibly support Obama? True there are not any great options for those who support neither candidate and I really don’t have any solutions to the problem, all I have is an ulcer from watching this three-ring circus disguised as an election.


The best way to launder one’s criminally acquired stash is to die and leave it to your loved ones.

I was reminded of this because of the faux scandal of Barack Obama and his association with William Ayers on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a school reform charity. I wasn’t reminded so much of William Ayers and his wild youth. Rather, I was reminded of Walter Annenberg.

Every time that a Kennedy, or someone who appears to be Kennedy-esque, shows his or her face in public, right-wing elements like to point out that Joe Kennedy was a rum-running, prohibition gangster. Joe Kennedy also invested lots of his ill-gotten wealth in Nazi Germany coming up to WWII. Unfortunately for right-wingers, it was Prescott Bush at the Brown Brothers Harriman Wall Street firm who handled Kennedy’s Nazi investments, so while Joe Kennedy and his money‘s familiarity with pre-war Nazis is often noted his broker isn‘t.

In the 1800s the Delano family, as in Franklin Delano Roosevelt, made its money in the Chinese “Opium Wars.” In case you’re not familiar with that part of American history, that was when Western powers fought Chinese warlords to import opium INTO China. Drug dealers, if you want to be coarse about it. Proponents of free trade, if you want to be more delicate.

In fact, the accrual of vast wealth by someone almost always comes at someone else’s expense. At some point a bunch of people got screwed for one guy to walk away holding a bag of money.

Soon after the death of Ronald Reagan I read Dan Moldea’s “Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob”, which actually follows Reagan’s financial growth through his many relationships with shady characters in Hollywood from his acting career right into the White House (the book was written in the mid-eighties). Moldea’s thrust was that Reagan, while presented to the public as an avuncular good guy, was really the Mob’s stooge.

I’ve read a few of Moldea’s books and have problems with some of his work, some books more than others. While Reagan did pal around with characters with unsavory criminal backgrounds he also worked with some pretty ugly political groups and fronted, for example, the Crusade For Freedom which was a CIA propaganda operation (in violation of its charter, but who’s counting violations?) that helped import Nazi and fascist residua into the U.S. after WWII (Think of Hans von Spakovsky‘s folks getting resettled among the German rocket scientists in Huntsville, Alabama). As we have come to find out, there has always been a kind of alliance between our intelligence services, fascists and criminals. Reagan was familiar with all three groups. Moldea’s book just focuses on one part of the trifecta.

A good friend of the Reagans was Walter Annenberg. Annenberg was a rich publisher of things like TV Guide. Before the TV age Walter and his father Moe Annenberg were mobsters. Both had been indicted in 1939 for tax evasion involving their wire service. The wire service was an integral part of the illegal mob-run national gambling syndicate in the middle of the Twentieth Century. Estimates are that at least half of all mob killings in the forties and the fifties in the U.S. were related to organized crime’s gambling operations. With gambling came the absolute corruption of police at every level throughout the U.S. (All levels. Read about J. Edgar Hoover’s mobbed up friends at the Del Charro resort and compare with how long it took for Hoover to admit there was “organized crime“ in America.) As Rufus King wrote in his book “Gambling and Organized Crime“:

“Whoever controlled the wire service ‘drops’ in a town became master of gambling activities there. And more often than not he controlled–the word is reasonably chosen, controlled–the community’s local law enforcement agencies...once you have got the patrolman–his lieutenant and his captain and the Chief–taking bribes from your organization for “protection” of a harmless little gambling enterprise, YOU HAVE GOT THEM FOR ALL PURPOSES.”

Of course, that’s how corruption works. (That’s why no one wants to give up on the War on Drugs. It’s too profitable. See: "Opium Wars" above.)

Well over a half-century ago Moe Annenberg made a plea-bargain and took the fall in exchange for the feds dropping charges against his son.

If you ever turn on Public Radio or Public Television, you’ll see lots of shows that are funded in part by the Walter Annenberg Foundation. There is the Annenberg School of Journalism, which funds studies and supplies experts throughout the media. Then there is the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, where Barack met Bill.

In short, the Annenberg money, made from illegal gambling, from the human weakness that makes poor jerks think that they can predict which horse will run fastest, from shakedowns and bribes and turf wars and murders and the mass corruption of American law enforcement, is now clean.

Do you think that any institution with the name Annenberg will ever do a study about the role of organized crime in America?

The word “venerable” comes from the same Latinate core that gave us “venereal,” as in “venereal disease.” “Venerable” means “commanding respect because of great age or impressive dignity; worthy of veneration or reverence, as because of high office or noble character.” To “venerate” is “to solicit the goodwill (of a god or spirit).” The core word, is, of course, “Venus,” the goddess of love, or more narrowly, “desire.”

Wealth and power buys its sycophants, but sycophants pay too. Free trade.

(This is a rewrite of a blog originally published on August 23, 2004 at my blog South Of Heaven. When I’m not writing about the relationship between the weather and my achy knees or my girlfriend’s old dog pooping on the rug I occasionally write about topics of broader interest. If this one interests you feel free to go through the stacks of past posts which go back over the better part of five years.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Now Powell the mass murderer is going to be an advisor to Obama. No doubt the liberals will swallow this whole. Who is drinking the Kool-aid now?

The invaluable Chris Floyd has the story.

Just to be clear, Barack Obama's brand-new foreign policy advisor, Colin Powell, wants you to know that he continues to support the decision to launch a war of aggression against Iraq in March 2003 -- an act that, according to principles established by the United States and its allies at Nuremberg in 1945, is a war crime punishable by death.

In fact, the only thing that Powell -- the wise and steady statesman, the "grown-up," the "moderate" -- can find to criticize in the conduct of the war he helped launch is the fact that it wasn't savage enough to begin with. We should have "surged" those sand monkeys from the git-go, he told CNN, as he aligned himself with the genocidal philosophy of noted moderate, grown-up legal philosopher Glenn "Gomer Says Hey" Reynolds, noted for his Augustinian endorsement of the "more rubble, less trouble" school of warcraft. From CNN, here are Powell's words from an exchange with reporters following his endorsement of Obama on Sunday:

“I'm well aware of the role I played [in the Iraq war]. My role has been very, very straightforward. I wanted to avoid a war. The president agreed with me. We tried to do that. We couldn't get it through the U.N. and when the president made the decision, I supported that decision. And I've never blinked from that. I've never said I didn't support a decision to go to war.”

The rest.

Chips Ahoy

In any normal universe that Colin Powell endorsed Obama would be a wake-up call but this is no normal universe. For that matter choosing Biden (D-credit card) as a running mate ought to have been a clue as to what Obama really is. Powell cut his political teeth during the Vietnam War when it was his job to cover-up the My Lai massacre. From that point on it was downhill all the way culminating in Powell’s infamous speech at the United Nations where he held up a little vial of snake oil and lied through his teeth signing the death warrant of over one million Iraqi. The man is a monster by any sane measure. Dare I suggest that Powell’s nose is brown for reasons other than his ethnicity?

People talk of the lesser of two evils theory where one votes for the least rank smelling candidate. But all this has accomplished is the continuance of having to choose between to pieces of buffalo poop every election. Of course the joke is on us as the only purpose of the election is to provide half-time entertainment between slaughters of whatever nations we are assaulting at the moment and to let the masses believe that they live in a democracy and that our national leaders give a damn about what you think. They don’t. Perhaps at some point in the distant past it actually did matter though I seriously have doubts about that.

As far as I am concerned the election is already lost. It was lost way back when the candidates were chosen.

However it do look like an Obama victory is on the horizon. Barring any further surprises I expect the economic meltdown will make Obama and his partners in crime the Democratic incumbents in Congress a shoe-in for this election cycle. Historically the common man fares a bit better under Democratic leadership than under Republican leadership as far as domestic policy is concerned but not by much. And as the Democratic Party continues its incremental trek to the right these differences become less and less meaningful. Ever since the Clinton years when Clinton out Republicaned the Republicans these differences have been becoming, well, less different. But here is the real rub, the War on Terror has reduced the vaunted might of the U.S. to that of a debtor nation where we have become dependant on foreign capitol to fund our imperial misadventures. Obama is committed to the War on Terror in no uncertain way where eventually our mighty national leaders will have to choose between empire and domestic stability. Obama has already chosen the imperial road. Obama has already said that he will not be able to pursue the domestic policies in the way he originally planned yet there is no indication that he would de-escalate the War on Terror, merely move it from one place to the next.

Years ago when I was young I worked for the county Parks Department and part of the job was clearing the deadwood from around the park parking lot. I would use what is called a chipper. Basically a chipper is a three bladed chopping device driven by a gasoline engine. You stand to the side of the chipper and feed branches in one end and chips come flying out the other. You always wore a short sleeved shirt for this because if your shirt sleeve got caught on a branch it would pull you into the chipper and you would emerge as fine red spray out the other end. I never liked that part of my job. However it is a perfect analogy of what the common man means to national leaders like Obama. The federal government is the chipper and you are the piece of wood being fed into the chipper emerging as a fine red mist. The ruling elite are never expendable, at least in their own view, but we are nothing but fodder for the chipper.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I Remember Jancy

I first met Jancy Limpert back in 1970 when I was a senior in high school. At that time Jancy was attending Stanford University studying modern dance ala Martha Graham who was a pioneer in modern dance breaking away from ballet. Jancy introduced me to Jazz, and classical music and many other forms of art which enriched my life tremendously. Jancy also introduced me to one of my best life-long friends Tony Kramer who now teaches dance at Stanford. Jancy, Tony, and I used to have some great hangouts listening to Charlie Parker and Bartok. That was when we were young and immortal and life was one great adventure of exploring art. There is no doubt that those days were some of the most enjoyable of my life though it now seems a lifetime ago.

The worst part of growing old is losing your friends and three weeks ago Jancy succumbed to breast cancer. Unfortunately Jancy was into a religion that did not believe in modern medicine. A small lump was found on her breast 14 years ago which eventually grew to the size of a fist in recent years. She was in great pain near the end and her husband convinced Jancy to let a hospice nurse come to their home who gave her shots of morphine for the constant pain. I despise religion for many reasons and this just adds one more. No one knows if Jancy had begun treatments that she would have survived or not, we will never know, but many women do survive breast cancer. At this point there is not much use in dwelling on what might have been. These are sad days.

I remember Jancy as the beautiful young woman she was so many years ago and all the good times that friendship brings. How I miss those days of optimism and youthful friendships. Today the world seems a bleak and melancholy place and even more so now that Jancy is gone. I’ll never forget Jancy and will always remember her with love and great fondness. It is hard to believe that she is gone. I guess the lesson is that you should enjoy the good times while they last because they don’t last forever.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Where the money went

I'm at a disadvantage with this economic meltdown. I don't have a good understanding of economics.

I don't even balance my checkbook. As the son of a bookkeeper I should be ashamed. I pay my bills, and I keep my credit card paid off. I have an approximate knowledge of what I spent versus what I have. At the end of the month I look at what's in my checking and if I need a little more I move a little from my savings. So far the mathematics police haven't busted me.

I have a vague understanding of how certain things happen on the bigger economic stage, and I can suss out the connection between foxes and henhouses. I have an appreciation that we are the chickens and our eggs are the eggs that are missing, and I have a general idea of who the foxes are, although the media doesn't necessarily identify the foxes individually (unless one fox is taking the fall for the others) or which eggs they ate or, most importantly, how the foxes got in the henhouse.

I welcome when I come across some information that gives me an "aha!" moment. So it was with this show summary from "For The Record: #531 Interview With Lucy Komisar about Offshore". It's a pretty detailed explanation of an interview from 2005 with Komisar, an investigative reporter, about the offshore banking business. The interview specifically revolves around AIG (American International Group, Inc.). Yes, that AIG, the huge banking/insurance business that went down hard. It was one of the first dominoes in our current click-clackety economic collapse. Granted, even with the explanation I'm still a little slow at following the dotted line, but repeated listenings should help me. (At the linked site there are several links to the actual interview in different formats.)

Here's the long short:

AIG was running a scam, parts of it certainly illegal, all of it unethical, called "captive" reinsurance companies. Reinsurance companies are a way to spread the potential losses. What AIG did was have an offshore subsidiary be its own reinsurance company, make sweetheart deals between the firms so that profits were hidden offshore and off the books in America, thus away from investors and the eyes of the government. It eventually left AIG itself exposed because it wasn't spreading the losses.

My "aha!" moment came as Komisar mentioned some of the various players on the AIG and Clearstream (a very unclear associated banking business) roster. For ex, Henry Kissinger was a board member; Robert Rubin, Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury, was in on the fun. You see how these kinds of players tended to insulate AIG from closer scrutiny by the government. Then there were the places where money was moved through on the way to the wrong people's pockets: "the role of the Clearstream network in the Banco Ambrosiano, October Surprise and BCCI scandals; the role of the Clearstream network in the financing of Al Qaeda and 9/11..." The Banco Ambrosiano Affair was also known as the Vatican Banking Scandal from back in the late seventies when lots of money disappeared and where the trail ended when a fellow named Roberto Calvi, known as "the banker of God," was found suicided. The Propaganda Due Lodge (known as P2 for short), a fascist secret lodge involved with criminality, terror and the CIA were also involved with the Vatican Banking Scandal. I'll presume the readers are either familiar with the other scandals or will google them.

AIG apparently had a history of involvement with the U.S. intelligence community, going back to the OSS and World War II. Bill Casey, a Wall Street banker and an old OSS man who followed his instincts into the CIA and who was Reagan's "campaign manager" during the 1980 (re: "October Surprise") election, wanted AIG top dog Maurice "Hank" Greenberg as Reagan's Secretary of the Treasury. By the time of this interview (2005), Greenberg was in the sights of New York's Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer.

You remember Eliot Spitzer? He was the "rude, cocky" Democratic Governor of New York who earlier this year had written an editorial for WaPo about the mortgage crisis and the Bush Administration's involvement in blocking the states from pursuing the criminals running mortgage scams. Spitzer had lots of enemies in high places on Wall Street. And then, surprise, surprise, the FBI, using powers legislated for our "War on Terror", found that Spitzer was illegally moving his own money from one of his accounts to another in order to pay a call girl. Spitzer was destroyed as a public figure and forced to resign from being Governor of New York.

And the mortgage crisis limped along for another six months.

Funny how justice works.

There was a book out years ago, Crimes Of Patriots by Jonathan Kwitney, about the Nugan Hand Bank, a CIA job that helped move money for covert, illicit and just plain illegal dealings that had the fingerprints of the intelligence community and its cadre of crooks. Nugan Hand was created to replace Paul Helliwell's Castle Bank, which had gone through those throes that crooked banks eventually go through. In fact, there are plenty of books about all sorts of criminal conspiracies involving banks and banking swindles, airlines flying weapons into places and drugs out of them, and the intertwining of these enterprises, which all seem to double back to our intelligence community (BCCI, Palmer Bank, etc.). And in every case the trail seems to get cold right about the time that the bigger fish should be frying. It's part of that creepy bit of our history we don't hear about in civilized circles.

Consider this family history: Prescott Bush was an intelligence officer in World War I who afterwards became a Wall Street banker. He went on to handle the Nazi portfolio for Brown Brothers Harriman before and during World War II (at least until it was seized under the Trading With The Enemy Act), and whose family fortune was considerably advanced after the war with the dissolution of a Nazi bank he had fronted (Union Banking Corporation). His son, George Herbert Walker Bush, long suspected of having a history as an agent with the CIA from his days at Yale (track down Anthony Kimery's work), who then became the Director of the CIA, was tasked by President Reagan to deregulate the savings and loans industry. Vice President Bush. Presto, a banking crisis! We remember how well Neil Bush and his friends cleaned up with the looting of Silverado Savings, but what we weren't shown were how many S&L frauds involved people with intelligence connections. Track down Steve Pizzo's book on the S&L ripoffs and try to count how many of the bank failures involved people with apparent connections to intelligence, the Republican Party, or both. This pattern seems to be repeating itself with this new great banking crisis.

I was not surprised to hear that Robert Rubin, Clinton's Treasury guy, had touched the hem of AIG's majestic robes. I have long had suspicions about Bill Clinton's career of public service. But that's for another time.

The interview, and my ragged interpretation of it here, isn't a clear bar graph of how this collapse happened or where the money went, but it should at least suggest where to be looking and why nobody in the media looks there. At some point during our Cold War paranoia our intelligence agencies became a giant get-out-of-jail-free card for a whole community of scalawags.

Even when the evidence points there we don't.


I am happy to see that in the last couple of days things have perked up on Wall Street. Things have gone up as often as they have gone down this week, but I'm afraid that "the fundamentals" still aren't very good. The average Joe (as opposed to faux plumbers) doesn't have money to buy anything. The housing bubble and the subprime mortgage scam allowed the looting of America to continue for a few years longer than it naturally would have, but now most Americans are wrung dry. It will take someone who's willing to change things, to put money back into the pockets of the people, an actual class warrior, in order to really turn things around. That means changes in labor laws and their enforcement to help the average worker, rewriting of trade deals, taxing those who've got fat at the Republican banquet table. That's going to be a lot of work, and the media won't be quiet about this either.

I think that Paulson and his buddies just wanted to move this stinking pile past election day and leave it on Obama's doorstep. This bailout is essentially the same as Eliot Spitzer's public denunciation: a delaying tactic.

See ya'll in the bank vault in Switzerland.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Celebrating Violence: A U.S. Traditional Value

So, will the collapse of the economy end our imperial wars? Probably not right away so don’t look for any miracles. I believe that as long as China is willing to lend our federal government money to continue the wars the wars will continue. And keep in mind Obama is already committed to escalating the war in Afghanistan (as is McCain) with his plans for sending another 10,000 troops to Afghanistan in America’s war against children and little babies. Oh! You thought we were killing terrorists? But then if we were to kill terrorists we would have to kill ourselves since we are by far the largest purveyor of terror in the world today. We fully back the Israeli genocide of the Palestinians as Obama himself said when he groveled and fawned before AIPAC assuring them that if Obama were president he would most certainly keep the blood money pumping into the Israeli coffers. We have been conducting a war in Somalia though the news and most liberal blogs ignore that fact. Never-the-less we are in fact terrorizing that nation much more than bin Laden ever terrorized us. Then there is Afghanistan where the U.S. military purposefully targets civilians – as we do everywhere -- a tactic the U.S. has used ever since WWII where we developed the idea that by bombing civilians it would cause our enemies to give up sooner than otherwise. If that isn’t terrorism what is? If you believe that what the Pentagon tells us about surgical air strikes is true you are sadly mistaken. The reality is that there is really very little “collateral” damage since the U.S. purposefully targets civilians. Let me repeat that – we purposefully target civilians and that includes everyone, perhaps the only thing that is even remotely democratic here in the States. After all, the purpose of democracy is (or so they say) to be all-inclusive and we are certainly all-inclusive when it comes to bombing. And then of course there is Iraq, all but forgotten in this election period but then at this point there is very little to say about Iraq a monument to monumental stupidity, greed, avarice, vindictiveness, and the violent mind-set of the U.S. for we are certainly the most violent people on the planet Earth.

The Europeans are no better considering NATO is for all purposes a lapdog to U.S. foreign policy if it can be dignified that way.

Washington Post

KABUL, Oct. 15 -- In a bow to public outrage over a recent spate of U.S.-led airstrikes in Afghanistan that resulted in more than 100 civilian deaths, NATO officials have ordered commanders to try to lessen their reliance on air power in battles with insurgents, NATO and Afghan officials said Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Richard Blanchette, NATO's chief spokesman in Afghanistan, said commanders are now under orders to consider a "tactical withdrawal" when faced with the choice of calling in air support during clashes in areas where civilians are believed to be present. The goal of the order is to minimize civilian casualties, encourage better coordination with Afghan troops and discourage overreliance on air power to repel insurgent attacks, Blanchette said.

"We'll do anything we can to prevent unnecessary casualties, and we'll ensure that we'll have safe use of force. That includes not only airstrikes but ground operations," Blanchette said.

Confusion and controversy over airstrikes have bedeviled the U.S.-led military mission in Afghanistan in recent months. This summer, three U.S. airstrikes in separate parts of the country that killed more than 100 Afghan civilians provoked sharp criticism from Afghan government officials, the United Nations and international humanitarian groups.

According to the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, more than 1,400 Afghan civilians were killed in the first eight months of this year. Of those, 395 were killed in airstrikes by Western forces. The number of civilians killed by U.S.- and NATO-led airstrikes has risen by 21 percent this year, a recent U.N. report said.

Leave it to the WaPo to let us know that confusion and controversy over airstrikes has “bedeviled” the U.S. military. Poor babies, do it hurt and have a temperature? Nothing sadder than a bunch of bedeviled murderers. Last summer my house came very close to being destroyed by a forest fire but the fear of losing property to a natural disaster is nothing, nothing, compared to the terror the U.S. strikes in the hearts and minds of so many third world nations around the globe. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to live in fear day after day, month after month, year after year, as warplanes roar overhead raining down death and destruction the way our victims must. But this is how the game is played as illustrated by the WaPo. First you deliberately terrorize a nation by targeting civilians then you deny that you would do such a thing calling it unfortunate and regrettable later to admit that okay maybe we killed some civilians but it was not purposeful when it most certainly was.

Since it appears that Obama (D-Wall Street) will be the next Murderer-in-Chief I do not marvel at his enthusiasm for war despite the rather obvious fact that the war on terror has brought our own nation to the brink of destruction. Either Obama is the stupidest motherfucker I ever saw or he is delusional or a complete liar and McCain is no better. As I have said before the next president will be a national undertaker hammering the last nails into the lid of the coffin and Obama would make a very good undertaker. McCain would kill you with a sledge hammer but Obama would be more humane, perhaps a nice lethal injection would do the trick. We are all horrified by the news of a young mother killing her three year old baby girl but when it comes to brown people and third world nations we don’t bat an eye. It was unfortunate, regrettable, but well worth it to protect fat white businessmen from losing money.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Columbus day 2008

library of congress

Undoubtedly you've heard people say, "I don't know much about [thing x], but I know what I like." Well, I like art, and I know essentially nothing about it. Why was Jackson Pollock's splattering valuable, and your two year old cousin Jeff's splattering a thing to be outgrown and simply lamentable? I dunno.

All the same, I suspect, in my untutored way, that this lithograph is visual doggerel. I think it might be famous, and of course I could be dead wrong, at least about the critical rep of the original. Nevertheless, I felt sufficiently bold to draw a nice little yellow arrow on the middle-right side of the panel to show you a Pre-Columbian Native, so you'd notice him, lurking behind the fern.

Why is he there? Does the artist want us to see the Native Indian Indigenous guy as ominous, representing a threat to Columbus?

Or maybe we're supposed to see the Indigenous Guy as fearful, knowing his place and conveniently staying out of the picture.

I'm tempted to say that a psychoanalytical view would say that the artist wants to banish all thought of Indigenous Guy's presence, but nevertheless feels a compulsion, perhaps out of unresolved guilt, to represent our friend Indigenous Guy. (Such a view might also note in passing my childishness in drawing the arrow.) But then, psychoanalysis is yet another field I know nothing about, so I really shouldn't say this...

[here's a larger view.]

cross-posted at "Hugo Zoom"

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

So Palin Was Booed

Last night VP candidate Sarah Palin appeared before the crowd at the Philadelphia Flyers' hockey game and was booed, as expected. Every politician who appears in front of a sports crowd in Philadelphia gets booed. Philadelphia has been noted for its Eagles fans booing Santa Claus and pelting him with snowballs one year. The Phillies stopped doing those marriage proposal announcements on the scoreboard because the fans would boo the poor schmuck with the ring kneeling in front of his girlfriend.

A week or so back Palin showed up at a bar in Philadelphia and an instant Obama rally broke out. Not so much boos as "Obama!" chants.

So how come anyone in the McCain campaign would schedule an appearance for Palin at any Philadelphia sporting event? The best explanation I've seen, and we'll probably know soon if it's the case, is that this was going to give cover for some of the more outrageous behavior going on at Republican events this week. True believers at the rallies have been shouting "Traitor!" and "Kill him!" when Obama's name is mentioned. There are adults who can actually operate motor vehicles who think that Obama is a secret Muslim who is planning on doing some dastardly deed once he sneaks into the White House. No matter that the worst that can be said of the Obama-William Ayers connection is that they worked together on the board of a charity that was founded by a rich Republican friend of Ronald Reagan (Walter Annenberg), there are actual voting adults who believe that an eight year-old Obama was helping the former SDS Weatherman build bombs back in the sixties. The most pathetic moment was the woman who told McCain that she was afraid because she heard that Obama was an Arab and then McCain reassured her that he wasn't an Arab but a decent man. And then McCain was booed at his own rally.

Somehow, I don't think that there will be much sympathy for Palin from anyone outside of the group of supporters who were already going to vote for her and McCain.

I think the strategy now is to keep the race close enough so that a few Republican secretaries of state around the country can steal enough electoral votes for the party to win it for McCain. We know that there's been a lot of voter purging, voter caging and all sorts of shenanigans with people registering to vote (and, as is the Rovian strategy, covering it by accusing fraud and wrongdoing for legitimate voter registration drives). But the race doesn't seem to be close enough for subtle thievery to win the day. Outside of the South McCain is losing, and losing badly in the rest of America.

(Cross-posted at South of Heaven.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tea for the Tillerman

It's the morning after and a lot's been said already about McCain calling Obama "that one". It was disrespectful, sounded racist, and made McCain look like a crabby old man who'd forgotten someone's name at the dinner table at a family get-together; and it was an awkward turn of phrase on top of that.

I think that these "how they said it" moments play an important part in how people interpret these public performances. Maybe more important since there wasn't all that much new of any substance last night (except for McCain's willingness to kill Social Security and Medicare).

Here's a quick observation on a very little moment in the debate last night:

Am I the only one who found McCain's line referring to himself as being a "cool hand on the tiller" a little creepy?

On camera last night McCain seemed to be the very personification of his well-documented hot temper, a little man in a tight suit who was about to explode. Wandering around stage, gripping his microphone like he wanted to strangle it, he made rude comments to Obama and Brokaw (who seemed to be bending over backwards trying to relate to the Skipper while scolding Obama for talking too much), and was condescending to the audience.

Hot head does not equal cool hand.

When McCain suggested that he had a "cool hand" there was a little bit of the undead in it. Plus, it reinforced the impression of him being old. Older people do have circulatory problems and often complain about their extremities being cold. So for an angry old guy to say he had a cool hand suggests the kind of thermal disequalibrium that old people have when their days on this planet are winding down.

Then, for those old enough, there's "Cool Hand Luke", a movie about a petty criminal on a Florida chain gang. Since no one is going to confuse McCain with a young, virile Paul Newman, you're more likely to connect McCain with the brutal prison guards and the oppression visited upon Luke. Not a good linkage.

The image of "cool hand" is entirely the wrong thing for McCain to be using. For a "hot head" to be talking about his "cool hand" suggests a disconnection between thought and action, an almost psychopathic state.

"Tiller" is also problematic. The word is archaic. I doubt many people ever use that word anymore or even know its meaning. By using it McCain reemphasized that he is older, living in another time. "Tiller" has several uses, but McCain meant "tiller" as the lever that controls a rudder on a boat. I guess it was a folksy attempt to link his history in the Navy with how he'd be as President. McCain doesn't need folksy now. Never mind that in the Navy he had a problem with crashing jets. And they don't have tillers on the back of jets.

Really, have you ever used the word tiller when referring to the lever that controls a rudder? When was the last time you used it? If you have you probably have a boat with a rudder or, more likely, your grandad did.

But "tiller" has another problem. "Tiller" as someone who plows land, tills the soil, is a somewhat more familiar use, but still archaic. The last time that I remember a variation of it being used was when Cat Stevens titled an album in the early seventies "Tea For The Tillerman". Republicans don't want to link themselves to Cat Stevens these days. Those who know "tiller" as meaning "farmer" would probably find McCain's usage peculiar and confusing. McCain doesn't get excited when he's behind a plow? Who does? He doesn't get excited when he puts his cold hand on the old man behind the plow? Why is John McCain touching a farmer? When looking at last night's events the phrase seems to link, and not so so positively, McCain putting his creepy hand on the shoulder of that questioner in the audience.

So add inappropriate touching to the problems with this turn of phrase.

Which leads me to yet another problem. Another old word, "till", at least has a little more circulation. A "till" is a cash drawer, and these days the term is almost exclusively used (when it's ever used) when talking about petty theft, as in someone being "caught with his hand in the till". The problem with having a "cool hand on the tiller" is that the definitions of similar words tend give a totally different and unflattering meaning to McCain's intended point. A "hand in the till" is not very far from a "cool hand on the tiller".

It came out sounding like McCain is a ghoul robbing a cash register.

Just saying.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

More states, less filling

There's a story in the SF Chronic about a political movement in the northernmost counties of California and the southernmost counties of Oregon seceding from their respective states to create the fifty-first state of "Jefferson".

Their complaints are that the two states don't understand the people there in the state of Jefferson, and are somehow a drag on their economy. This is mostly logging country, with a few marijuana farms and meth labs hidden away in the foliage up there.

There certainly is a difference in culture, and they might as well be a thousand miles away from San Francisco (in reality, maybe three hundred miles). There was a Jefferson statehood movement back in the early forties before Pearl Harbor wiped it from everyone's mind.

The immediate problem is that there is no way that a Democratic majority in Congress would allow this to pass on its own. Jefferson is rural and conservative and would probably send nothing but Republicans to Washington.

The idea would be a better sell if you threw in statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It would make more sense to include Washington, D.C. as part of Maryland, but Republicans wouldn't like all those Democratic voters electing Maryland's Senators. And by culling Republican voters from both Oregon and California it would pretty much guarantee only Democratic senators from both states.

But why stop there? Someone pointed out that because of the size of California Barbara Boxer won her Senate seat by a margin equaling the votes that put something like a dozen Republican Senators into the Senate. (I don't have a link for this, but read it a couple of years ago.) The point is that California has a lot of voters and gets only two Senators. San Jose proper has about as many people as Alaska. So if we're slicing and dicing California why not bifurcate what's left after Jefferson leaves and make North California and South California?

Okay, let's check the math here. Jefferson adds two Republican Senators but pushes Oregon into the most-likely Democratic column. Dividing California adds two more Democratic Senators. The District of Columbia as a state adds two more Democratic Senators (or, as part of Maryland practically guarantees Dems from that state). Puerto Rico means two more Democratic Senators. And this doesn't count the House of Representatives.

And while we're at it, let's throw in Guam and all those protectorates in the Pacific.

So this is why Jefferson doesn't have much chance now. There are other places with better arguments for statehood, and Jefferson would have to come in as a package deal. Not only would Republicans block that deal. Even if Jefferson came in as a solid Republican state it would make the other states around it a lot more reliably Democratic. In short, Jefferson is a nice fantasy. It's got as much chance of happening as Uncle Junior's amorous fantasies about Angie Dickinson.

(cross-posted at South Of Heaven)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sarah, the witch-hunter, and you

I don't give a damn who "won" tonight's debate between Biden and Palin. It's hard enough giving a damn who wins the presidency. I used to think that at the very least, federal court appointees still mattered, even if everything else a President Obama might do was likely to be GOP-lite. I still think Roe-v.-Wade matters, but it disgusts me to think the democrats are dangling this before us as a sort of blackmail, as in "what else are you gonna do? vote for the speaking-in-tongues party?"

To be honest, I had no stomach for watching the whole debate. Even though the mind-numbingly irrelevant conversation they had about tax cuts certainly suggested, at least to me, that they didn't really take the apparent pending implosion of the economy seriously, maybe they gave this some lip service at another point, either before or after I was tuned in.

"Palin's appeal to the average American voter should NOT be under-estimated. Most American voters + non voters alike, are either uninformed or mis-informed when it comes to their own interests, let alone foreign policy issues. Most people make their choices based on emotional appeals alone, with logic or reason playing a very minor role. Last minute appeals to the emotions are thus extremely effective as campaign strategies. All politicians employ lies and obfuscation, it is a pre-requisite of sorts. But some lies turn out be bigger than others. The McCain/Palin ticket is NOT good for the people or the world. Our other choices are not much better, but this ticket MUST [be] defeated. Palin is pro-corporate on the domestic front, ALL THE WAY. Her religious views, for 22 years, are extreme and completely nuts. She NOT pro-average American. She lives in a mansion, tax free, while spouting off 'anti- elite' sentiments, when it is politically convenient for her. She does not believe in science (only when it comes to oil), and she believes the earth is 6000 years old. Do you want this woman to have the nuclear launch codes someday? Bringing about Armageddon, which her religion FAVORS?"- ella2007k

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Prediction: Feisty!

I don't do very well in predicting football games, so for those of you with a betting interest I suggest you hold onto your money any time I predict anything, including this time. Part of my problem is that I tend to root with my heart. I want the Forty-Niners to win, and so, for ex, even when they went into New Orleans last Sunday and everything said that the Saints would run over the Niners, I approached that game with hope. When JT O'Sullivan was pummeled all day and when Drew Brees looked up from reading his Sunday Times-Picayune to throw the ball fifty yards downfield I wasn't surprised but it still put me into that football depression that many a man has suffered in the Fall.

Elections have that effect, too. That depression that creeps in with the shortening of the day, the chill in the wind. You're rooting for a candidate and you know he/she is the best for the job and is telling the truth, speaking truth to power, whatever. But at the end of the game you look up and your guy lost.

Debates are worse than football games. At least with football games the ball has to cross over a line for points to go up on the board.

I have this very bad feeling that Palin will be the announced winner of Thursday's debate, and this will be the first step in the media pushing the meme of McCain being in a close race with Obama. How could Palin, a candidate who is ignorant of so much, who embraces that strain of anti-science, end times Christianity, whose personal life is so disorganized and whose limited time as a Governor gives her no experience or understanding of the job of the President and the business of Washington, beat the ultimate brilliant Washington insider?

Because that has to be the strategy of the media (and their owners). No matter how badly she fumbles, no matter how she fails or refuses to answer a question, or how many times she gives a rambling anecdote about a family struggling with healthcare problems or how we must continue the war(s) so that the dead have not died in vain, she has to win in the eyes of the media.

And she will win because she's... feisty!

She may also win because Joe Biden is an "overbearing and pompous insufferable windbag" who may very well overstep himself and do something stupid or just be enough of a know-it-all that the average Joe will resent him enough to vote for the perky gal who used to be on SNL. That was a joke. But unless Palin passes out or soils herself onstage she will probably be ruled the winner. By the pundits.

These debates are much like Olympic gymnastics. Half the time you don't know what's being scored. How was this dismount .73 points better than that dismount? Worse, the people who will be scoring the debate, the media pundits, have all sorts of sliding scales, and the scales themselves are often incomprehensible. Palin could be "great for her first time" or "cool under pressure" or "right on target about the (fill in the subject)". Or she could have just "looked good".

That is, the fix is already in. You had problems with Ed Hochuli's quick whistle? I think the whistle has already been blown for this debate. Last week the immediate response from the pundits was that the first Presidential debate was a tie even though McCain's best line was, "Get off my lawn, you whippersnapper!" Okay, that was a joke too.

Granted, Palin could be so awful that no matter how the pundits try to spin it she loses by huge margins in the overnight polls. But I expect a lot of heavy lifting on the sidelines and all sorts of quick whistles and penalties called on Biden and inexplicable 10.0s on Palin's dismounts. Remember who the judges are. When the "most liberal" of the cable networks has Pat Buchanan to mediate between what you've seen and what you think you've seen you should recognize in whose pocket the mainstream media lives.

For those who forgot Buchanan was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon. He gave that particularly vicious speech at the 1992 Republican convention on "cultural wars" that Molly Ivins opined "sounded better in the original German".

If you're the betting kind you might want to stay away from this one.