Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fun City

Michael Brown ultimately died because he was jaywalking in the middle of the street, and a police officer told him to move, and then things got murky in the little minds of officials vainly trying to cover up the ensuing facts and thus directly causing even more trouble.

It's weird.  Because before the whole place went ka-boom, Ferguson, Missouri was designated a "Playful City USA" winner by the KaBOOM! corporate non-profit charity. They won because rather than spend a lot of money for fancy community recreation, the town fathers had cleverly banned Sunday afternoon traffic on selected streets, allowing Ferguson's poor people to get up off their couches of dependency and go out to frolic amongst the potholes. For this cynical effort, the town was rewarded with an unspecified grant funded by such conservative corporations as Home Depot, Disney, Doctor Pepper and giant health insurance predator, Humana. 

Go play in the streets, kids, but only on corporate-designated days. Talk about sending mixed messages to the residents of Anytown, Dystopian States of Amurka! Do you suspect that Ferguson's KaBOOM! grant might have been used to fund police overtime for traffic control on the play-streets, given that no actual play equipment seems to have been purchased?

(I tried to find out more by going on the official Ferguson website, but it appears to have either crashed, or been hacked.)

And meanwhile, how apt is it that the multinational producer of the popular InSinkErator garbage disposal is also headquartered right there in 22% poverty level Ferguson, Missouri?

The people of Ferguson, Missouri were getting damned tired of it long before the shooting of Michael Brown. His death was simply the last straw in a long series of straws. People finally had just about enough of being treated like trash, mere leftovers to be shoved down the societal drain and mashed into pulp when they weren't being told that the streets were all the playground they were ever going to get.

Now, of course, they're being tear-gassed right back off the streets. They have nowhere to go. It's like they're living in an open-air prison, a little Gaza-on-the-Mississippi. The optics are certainly eerily similar.

So, after nine days of "unrest," will the Powers That Be rescind Ferguson's Playful City designation, now that the National Guard has arrived to declare that the fun is over? 

As if to make their point, the police have designated the local low-wage Target store as Command Control Central, the better to target all those citizens, newly designated as the willfully unemployed "those people," anarchists, outside agitators and terrorists. Did I mention that Target is also a corporate sponsor of KaBOOM?

When they're not human fodder for InSinkErators, people can't even use the sinks in Ferguson to wash the police mace out of their eyes. From a CNN clip, which aired last week, of Don Lemon interviewing an unidentified woman who'd reported a previous run-in with the alleged shooter of Michael Brown:

Woman: I was maced and I had come up to QuickTrip because they said I could use their sink. So I was trying to clean out my eyes with some water and one of the employees told me to go get some milk, because that would help. So as I was pouring milk in my eyes, the officers had come in and told me to get out.

Lemon: When was this?

Woman: This was like a month ago. I came outside and I was trying to pour milk in my eyes and Wilson told me if I poured milk in my eyes, I was going to be arrested. And I was trying to tell him that my eyes were burning because I was maced, but he told me to 'Shut the F up.' So, another man told me to get in my car and turn the air and put my face in front of the vents, so that's what I did.

Lemon: So were you arrested? What happened?

 Woman: No, I wasn't arrested. When I got in my car and turned the air on and put my face in front of the vent. Wilson made me get out of the car and sit on the concrete and he took all my information and ran my name. And I was still trying to pour the milk in my eyes because I couldn't see, and he's telling me to 'shut the F up' and 'sit the f down' and I was looking at his name tag and I was telling myself that I would never forget who he was and what he did to me. And I prayed on it and I asked God to get revenge on him and I'm sorry this is the way it happened, but what's done in the dark always come to the light, and I saw the news this morning—

Lemon: But you're OK? Everything is OK?

Woman: I'm OK now. And I saw the news this morning when they released his name. I knew I knew exactly who he was and I know who he is right now.

Meanwhile, in a belated attempt to quell the unrest even better, Obama has evolved from heartbreak to concern to forensic pathologist-in-chief, a kind of President Quincy, MD. He is sending his henchman Eric Holder to oversee a third autopsy, and who knows, maybe even give a pep talk to a Homeland Security Fusion Center while he's at it.

Too bad the post-mortem is on just one body instead of on the entire body politic.

The politicians of America would prefer that the truth of democracy's demise, along with the leftovers of disposable humanity, just go down the giant InSinkErator into oblivion while the plutocrats gorge themselves at their endless feast.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's Not About You. It's About Obama and Hillary.

Everything wrong with the American media-political complex in one fell swoopagraph:
In this summer of global tumult, the debate in Washington essentially boils down to two opposite positions: It is all President Obama’s fault, according to his critics; no, it is not, according to his supporters, because these are events beyond his control.
So, which came first? The shallow play-acting of the elites, or the shallow reportage of the sycophants?

And what does it really matter?  Peter Baker's front page article in the New York Times, which turns complicated world events into a Manichean debate between foes and friends of the current front-man of the plutocracy, is all too emblematic of what passes for journalism. He said/she saids/ pseudo-feuds breaking up the Money Party, and the erection of straw men serve to mask the real story: that democracy is a theatrical sham, and that ordinary people are screwed.

It's the kind of reporting that makes the civil unrest in Missouri all about how much it is ruining Obama's vacation, or guessing how long it will take Hillary to "weigh in" on the events. ("Twitter Is Starting to Wonder!") It's the lazy soap opera method of political reporting. It's what happens when six media conglomerates control 90% of we see, hear, and read. It's when advocacy/adversarial journalism in the public interest is transformed into access stenography in the service of "the debate in Washington."

It's the kind of journalism that inspired Maureen Dowd to write a column last week on the death of Robin Williams and quickly morph it into a column about Hillary publicly dissing Barry's foreign policy. Actually, Dowd does make a sly, barbed, satirical point: Everything in the Consumer States of America -- even  death -- can be connected to everything else. Everybody has infinite degrees of separation... especially celebrities in the incestuous world of media, politics and entertainment!

My published comment, playing right along, in response to her piece:
Robin Williams had a thousand faces. Hillary has two.
Robin Williams had a wicked sense of humor. Hillary's recent performance art has just been wicked and senseless. First, she claimed to be dead broke and blamed it on her lack of artfulness. And now she's resorting to bare naked artifice, a two-bit Medea claiming that Obama didn't want to arm the Syrian rebels and bomb Assad into oblivion. She would have preferred unilateral bellicose action. An imperial presidency on steroids is what we can expect if we elect Hillary (or any other Republican) as our next commander in chief. Not for nothing was she John "Bomb Iran" McCain's honored guest at his elite and secretive Sedona festival of the neocons.
Elizabeth Warren is the one with the humor. Last April, as various pundits tried to back her into a corner about running, she allowed that Clinton would be a "terrific" candidate. She just kind of cagily forgot to mention for which party.
Warren is among the throngs of people all too well acquainted with the woman of two faces. Back when Hillary was newly installed by birthright in the US Senate, Warren was a consumer advocate lobbying for a strong bankruptcy protection bill to benefit regular people. Hillary promised she'd vote for it. And then she promptly voted against it.
So, while Obama is carefully pondering foreign policy as he golfs, this latest act in the All About Hillary melodrama is simply par for the course.
In the past week alone, four (Dowd, Gail Collins, Frank Bruni and David Brooks)  of the eleven-hack Times stable of op-ed writers each devoted entire columns to the staged Hillary-Barack Tango. And for one-sided sycophancy on steroids, you might as well also throw in Thomas Friedman's Sunday puff piece on Obama. Only Charles Blow saw fit to address the social upheaval in Missouri without making it all about sleazy politicians. Then again, he is the Designated Black Columnist at the Grey Lady.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman is wisely ignoring topics both shallow and fraught, and actually still talking about stimulus and austerity. He framed his piece around a comparison between the reactionary "too-muchers" (stimulus causes inflation and Greece!) and the "not-enoughers" (himself, and others who thought there was not enough stimulus) and how austerity in Europe is a big, big mistake and might even cause another lost generation, like in Japan.   

And then he again went into his standard Doctor Pangloss mode, soothing that "the good news is that things don’t look that dire in America, where job creation seems finally to have picked up and the threat of deflation has receded, at least for now."

My response:
 The trouble with the too-muchers is that too much is never enough. The one and only goal of capitalism is constant expansion, even if it means engorging itself on our lifeblood like a demented tic. The plutocrats will die of gluttony, we will die of anemia. 
You know who the real "not-enoughers" are? Average Americans whose wages have decreased by 23% since 2008. To say that the situation here is not as dire as in Europe because job creation "seems to have picked up" is cold comfort to those who are literally having their lives cut short by the insatiable greed of those at the very top.
 At least the too-muchers don't have so much influence in Europe that they've destroyed government-run health care, or dumbed down and privatized public education, or weaponized and militarized their countries to the point of no return. At least they don't arrest people for sleeping in their cars. At least their income inequality isn't nearly as severe as ours, ranking as we do at rock bottom on the Gini coefficient scale.
The caterwauling of American conservatives over inflation is just part of their free-floating crusade of terror, designed keep us cowed and quiet as our numbers are cruelly culled via Social Darwinism. When it's not the inflation bogeyman out to get us, they'll say it's ISIS who's sneaking across the border to murder us all in our beds.
Anything to deflect our attention from the real culprits: the parasites of the plutocracy.
They are just too, too much.

So in the spirit of everything being connected to everything, I hereby declare an Open Thread commenting free-for-all. Have at it. Because despite what the Times says, it is indeed All About You!

Update 8/17: In the same spirit, Maureen Dowd has written a fantastic piece on Times reporter James Risen's fight against the Obama administration, which is threatening him with jail for refusing to name a source in a book which outlined a CIA plot (what else). Dowd writes: 
How can he (Obama)  use the Espionage Act to throw reporters and whistle-blowers in jail even as he defends the intelligence operatives who “tortured some folks,” and coddles his C.I.A. chief, John Brennan, who spied on the Senate and then lied to the senators he spied on about it?
“It’s hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
Wow. If you thought this was another Dowd column that would bring the usual knee-jerk chorus of outrage from the Obamabots, think again. I've read through all of the 80 or so comments posted so far, and I think a grand total of two (both highlighted by editors) are actually in the president's court on this issue. Here's my comment:
Great column exposing the rank hypocrisy and bone-chilling assault on the free press which characterizes The Most Transparent Administration Ever (TM).
It is baffling to me how a president who has never denied holding weekly "Terror Tuesday" meetings to decide whom to drone-kill, who has jailed more whistleblowers than any other president, who has gone after leakers like a paranoid Nixon on steroids, who has protected torturers and Wall Street fraudsters while millions of people have slid into poverty, could still enjoy an approval rating in the low 40s.
People either aren't paying attention, or they prefer their lesser evilism with a personable smile as opposed to the blatant malevolence that is the face of today's GOP.
Risen, along with such stalwarts as Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill and Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, are the exceptions to the rule. When not self-censoring out of fear of surveillance, most reporters seem more interested in gaining access to the powerful than in afflicting them. Advocacy writing in the public interest has gone the way of the rotary phone.
 The recent police crackdown in Missouri is nothing new. The war on terror is a euphemism for the war on civil dissent. Under Obama, police arrested at least 7,000 Occupy protesters nationwide in an orchestrated crackdown, while Homeland Security fusion centers spied on their every move.
James Risen deserves the Medal of Freedom for having the courage to stand up for all of us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Henry Giroux Explains It All

Henry Giroux shares clips of his recent appearances on a Canadian TV show to talk about his new book, "The Violence of Organized Forgetting."

You can watch both segments here.

In the first part, the interviewer expresses disbelief that American police departments are using tanks to make arrests. Hopefully, she's since recovered from her original skepticism after (hopefully) watching events in Ferguson, Missouri unfold.

For as Henry Giroux warns in the second part, regarding Canada's comparatively strong safety net, "There's a cold wind blowing from the south."

He could have been talking about the fate of Michael Brown, gunned down for the crime of being a BMW (Black Male Walking) in Ferguson when he wrote,
The war on terror, rebranded under Obama as the "Overseas Contingency Operation," has morphed into war on democracy. Everyone is now considered a potential terrorist, providing a rational for both the government and private corporations to spy on anybody, regardless of whether they have committed a crime.  Surveillance is supplemented by a growing domestic army of baton-wielding police forces who are now being supplied with the latest military equipment. Military technologies such as Drones, SWAT vehicles and machine-gun-equipped armored trucks once used exclusively in high-intensity war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan are now being supplied to police departments across the nation and not surprisingly "the increase in such weapons is matched by training local police in war zone tactics and strategies."[32]  The domestic war against "terrorists" [code for young protesters] provides new opportunities for major defense contractors and corporations who "are becoming more a part of our domestic lives."[33]  As Glenn Greenwald points out, "Arming domestic police forces with paramilitary weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a terrorist attack on US soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons."[34] Of course, the new domestic paramilitary forces will also undermine free speech and dissent with the threat of force while simultaneously threatening core civil liberties, rights and civic responsibilities.  Given that "by age 23, almost a third of Americans are arrested for a crime," it becomes clear that in the new militarized state young people, especially poor minorities, are viewed as predators, a threat to corporate governance, and are treated as disposable populations.[35]  This siege mentality will be reinforced by the merging of private and corporate intelligence and surveillance agencies, and the violence it produces will increase as will the growth of a punishment state that acts with impunity. Too much of this violence is reminiscent of the violence used against civil rights demonstrators by the forces of Jim Crow in the 1950s and 1960s.[36]
The New York Times noticed the same thing and today posted side-by-side photos on its home page to illustrate it:

Left: Ferguson 2014 (NYT) and Right: Birmingham 1963 (AP)

The latest news, after a night of peaceful protests when a more professional state police force took over from the militarized thugs, is that the cop who shot Brown last weekend had just been alerted to a convenience store robbery, and put two and two together when he saw the suspicious "BMW" nearby.

Additionally, there's been a bipartisan call from congress critters to demilitarize local police departments in the wake of the discovery that boys will play with the dangerous toys that the patrimonial Pentagon bestows upon them. Well golly gee willikers, and here they thought the kiddies would stash the hand grenades in their closets until the zombie apocalypse.

I'm waiting for President Obama to try to quietly quash any such reining-in, the same way he quashed the Congressional reining-in of the NSA last year. We'll see if our legislators take the bait when their own political futures are on the line. We'll see whether, in the words of Henry Giroux, we'll fall victim once again to the "violence of organized forgetting."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Public Enemy Number One: The American Public

Ferguson, Missouri sector, Homeland Security States of America:

(New York Times)
As so many others have observed, these are the photos of a war zone. The explosion of events in a predominately black midwestern community is the direct result of 1) endemic racism and the paranoid "us against them" mentality of many police departments; and 2) putting the surplus high tech weaponry of war into the hands of poorly trained (mostly) men, who then act out of macho fantasy, abject fear, and mindlessness nurtured by stunted lifetimes' worth of consumption of violence-as-entertainment.

One young black man tried to take a detour from the school to prison pipeline that our cruel society had so callously mapped out for him, and he paid for his goal with his life.

Ferguson, Missouri may be the epicenter of a national tipping point, when the people finally had enough and began reacting to state violence against their peaceful protests with some civic violence of their own. From Reuters:
Police in Ferguson, Missouri, fired tear gas, stun grenades and smoke bombs to disperse some 350 protesters late Wednesday, the fourth night of racially charged demonstrations after police shot to death an unarmed black teen.

Some demonstrators hurled rocks at police as others scattered, while smoke engulfed the area. A Reuters reporter saw two young men preparing what looked like petrol bombs in a bus-stop shelter, their faces covered by bandanas. Police said protesters had thrown petrol bombs at officers.
Protesters have gathered every night since Saturday when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death in the mostly black suburb of St. Louis, during what authorities said was a struggle over a gun in a police car. Some witnesses say he was outside the car with his hands up.
Police have deployed camouflage-clad officers in body armor, including one manning a rifle on a tripod atop an armored car, to Ferguson.
"I've had enough of being pushed around because of the color of my skin. I'm sick of this police brutality," said one protester, who gave only his first name, Terrell, 18. "I'm going to keep coming back here night after night until we get justice."
Political bigwigs have called for calm, of course. President Obama, esconced on his island playground with other members of his social class, is "heartbroken." And do I have to tell you that they're already insisting that "this is not who 'we' (exceptional Americans) are?"
 “The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans,” Mr. (Missouri governor) Nixon said in a statement. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern.”
 Yes, actually, Ferguson is who we are. The only surprise is that there is not even more of a national uproar. Like in Detroit, where they actually cut off life-sustaining water to poor people who couldn't pay their bills. Like in New York City, where another black man was choked to death by police for the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes on the street. The state violence against ordinary people may not be as flashy and camera-ready as it is in Ferguson, Missouri, but it goes on every single minute of every single day, in every neighborhood in every town in every state in this country.

It's the violence of committing ten times as many mentally ill people to prison as are being treated in psychiatric facilities. It's the violence of a bipartisan Congress cutting billions of dollars from the food stamp program while giving corporate welfare to the elite class that is sucking the life out of poor people. It's the violence of a Texas governor using game wardens to hunt down human beings at a national border.

Meanwhile, since it bleeds, it leads in the corporate media. Blood and gore in the Homeland are vying for attention with the blood and gore in Iraq and other far- flung locales that are not in our back yard. When even reporters from respected national news outlets get roughed up and arrested without charge by the cops in a hometown low-wage McDonalds, that is news. 

When police brutality starts happening to nice, white, middle-class people who vote -- maybe then the bigwigs will pause in their toasts to one other and worry that they'll be toast in November and beyond.

As Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times recounts in a truly chilling article on police militarization,
The Pentagon program does not push equipment onto local departments. The pace of transfers depends on how much unneeded equipment the military has, and how much the police request. Equipment that goes unclaimed typically is destroyed. So police chiefs say their choice is often easy: Ask for free equipment that would otherwise be scrapped, or look for money in their budgets to prepare for an unlikely scenario. Most people understand, police officers say.
"When you explain that you’re preparing for something that may never happen, they get it,” said Capt. Tiger Parsons of the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office in northwest Missouri, which recently received a mine-resistant truck.
Obama and his war-mongering cronies should have known that when you give toys to boys, they will play with them at every opportunity. Why go to a domestic argument in a squad car when you can roll through someone's living room in a tank? Why let all those surplus grenades go to waste when you can raid the wrong house and toss them into the crib of an innocent baby? Why let schools keep a trouble-maker after class to do homework when you can taser him and point a submachine gun at him before throwing him into a private prison? 

So, if Obama is as heartbroken as he claims to be by the events in Missouri, he should take his pen and his phone and issue one of those mandatory orders of his. All police departments must give up, forthwith, their billions of dollars' worth of  tanks, planes, attack helicopters, submachine guns, water cannon blasters, and grenade launchers.  A safe, unpopulated spot out in the desert somewhere can be found where the weapons of war can be neutralized.... perhaps by digging a hole a mile deep and a thousand miles wide and pouring a billion tons of concrete over the whole mess. Then the president can take his pen and cancel all the contracts with the Offense Industry. Let them make war with the weapons they already have. When those wear out, stop the wars and come home.

 The surplus money can go to schools, universal health care, forgiveness of college loans, a guaranteed national income or living wage, and enhanced Social Security for dignified old ages.   

I hate violence. But I applaud anyone who refuses to be dehumanized for one more outrageous minute.

Update: President Obama has evolved beyond the heartbreak phase, and has entered the next theatrical phase, where he urges calm from all involved, thus lumping the proles and the police into the convenient melting pot of free-floating violence. The cops should exercise more restraint, and at the same time it's on the victims to not react the way a normal human being is supposed to.

For the next suppressive phase, Obama pointedly moved from the previous outdoorsy backdrop of his vacation spread to a more officious indoor venue, complete with military flag backdrop. 

It was a tacit message that Security State America shall prevail.

 “Now’s the time for healing,” Mr. Obama said. “Now’s the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.”

This is called rushing the public to get over it already, and achieve that instant closure that he so desperately needs, even before the latest victim is decently buried.  He also made the obligatory and utterly meaningless call for "transparency."

 In Obaman newspeak, transparency is defined as opacity. Transparency is the way he absolved himself from revealing details about his drone killings, the way the NSA is absolved from perjury and criminal trespass charges, among other myriad felonies, and the way the CIA is absolved of torture and crimes against humanity of which we know naught, because Obama censored the Senate report.

Not one word from the president about disarming and demilitarizing the local police departments as a sensible way to effectuate the calm he pretends to crave.

 It does seem, however, that the Powers That Be will make an attempt to "tone it (police brutality) down" until the people get over it and until the mainstream media get around to moving on to the next bloody thing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

News of Robin Williams' death has been a sucker-punch to the gut of a nation. At the same time, the reality that this genius is no longer of the earth is a concept that still hasn't quite sunk in.

I always liked his improvisational stand-up better than his TV sitcom or his later commercial blockbuster movies. (Exception: Awakenings.) When I first saw this anarchist in action, hyped up on his own natural amphetamines, I remember wondering how he ever managed to wind down enough to fall asleep at night. Later, when he revealed his substance abuse issues, I was not surprised that he'd taken the self-medication route, both to calm down and to ease some enormous hidden emotional pain. It's a testament to his own fortitude that he lasted as long as he did, into his seventh decade. Geniuses of his caliber who battle mental illness and addiction usually don't survive middle age.

His death is also a reminder that, as in so many of its other assbackwardnesses, America the Exceptional is still in the Dark Ages regarding mental illness. How many times in the past day have we heard media personalities pontificate about Williams "battling his demons?"  Because, despite the advances in knowledge that depression is an organic disease, it's  still equated with being possessed by the devil, or regarded as a moral or even criminal failing.

In fact, there are ten times more mentally ill people incarcerated in American jails than are being treated in psychiatric settings. These prisons are 21st Century Bedlams, in which sick people are so neglected and abused that by the time they are released, their illnesses have only gotten worse.

According to a study released in April by the Treatment Advocacy Center, in 2012, there were an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illnesses in U.S. prisons and jails. There were only 35,000 mentally ill individuals in state psychiatric hospitals. Its findings show that the deliberate "transinstitutionalization" of mentally ill patients from hospitals to prisons is well nigh complete.

"We characterize seriously mentally ill individuals as having a thinking disorder," the report trenchantly concludes. "But surely it's no worse than our own."

On that note, let us remember the refreshing  and hilarious sanity of the truly great Robin Williams. Let the current epidemic of barbarism take a back seat to the humanity of one brilliant soul for at least one more day.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Made in the USA

This is refreshingly journalistic, at least more nuanced compared to the deja-vu American chest thumping for freedumb being spewed in the news these days:
BAGHDAD — When American forces raided a home near Falluja during the turbulent 2004 offensive against the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, they got the hard-core militants they had been looking for. They also picked up an apparent hanger-on, an Iraqi man in his early 30s whom they knew nothing about.
The Americans duly registered his name as they processed him and the others at the Camp Bucca detention center: Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry.
That once-peripheral figure has become known to the world now as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East.(snip)
At every turn, Mr. Baghdadi’s rise has been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq — most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action. And now he has forced a new chapter of that intervention, after ISIS’ military successes and brutal massacres of minorities in its advance prompted President Obama to order airstrikes in Iraq.
 So at least the New York Times admits that the current fiasco is the direct result of American intervention rather than the standard propaganda, that a new group of terrorists just sprang up, fully-formed, for the sole reason that they just "hate us for our freedoms."

But then the piece veers off into "it was just a failure of intelligence" territory rather than it was a gross failure of intellect and human decency at the very highest levels story. It's quite telling that it was the private spy agency known as Stratfor -- not the CIA --  which apparently first raised the red flag on the ISIS precursors, and quite telling that it was Wikileaks that revealed how clueless and cavalier the US government was about all the blowback the US government was creating.

Baghdadi is portrayed as a cross between John Gotti (he gave street parties and built schools in between extortion raids on the Iraq citizenry) and a Che Guevara-like character "warmed over for jihadists." A Pentagon official even expresses grudging admiration for him, given his slick propaganda skills and racketeering campaign worthy of any billionaire Wall Street banker.

He sounds like a neoliberal folk hero in the making. Created of free-marketers, by free-marketers, for free-marketers.

And then the story veers off into the standard Obama vs. Hillary personality piece shallowness. The Beltway is all abuzz over a simmering feud now boiling over into potboiler territory.

According to The Atlantic, Hillary is making fun of Barry's snooty "Don't Do Stupid Shit" foreign policy. That is patently unfair, since his shitbombs are actually quite well-aimed and open-ended. Hillary blames his failure to arm Syrian rebels for the current crisis, forgetting that the arms dealers of America have already provided all the firepower necessary for the current crisis. And even worse, she's all "hepped up" about war. And it appears that she will run unopposed for the presidency. The Republicans are absolutely crazy about her.

So bombs away.... in the name of humanity, religion, Mom, apple pie and oligarchy.

Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Charles Blow hilariously blames disengaged American people instead of the misinforming media for an epidemic of public ignorance about ISIS and the wars: 
More Americans need to be more engaged, because these conflicts are complicated. There are no easy answers. Sometimes there will be no clear choices between good guys and bad guys but only choices among lesser demons. Sometimes conflicts are a swirl of history, ambition, grievance, vengeance and egos. Sometimes actors can only see righteousness in their wrong. Sometimes nobility and savagery coexist.
But if America, as the world’s last remaining superpower, is to faithfully play a role — if we must play that role — as a check against tyranny and terror in the world, its citizenry must be up to the task of discernment.

 My published response: 
 If Americans aren't the most engaged people on world issues, then neither are our elected leaders the most transparent. Far from it.
Jill Abramson, former NYT executive editor, called the current White House the most secretive she's encountered in all her years in journalism.
More whistleblowers have been prosecuted under Obama than in any prior administration. CIA analyst John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on torture, is rotting in prison, while the actual torturers (aka "patriots) are protected. A long-awaited Senate report on CIA torture is now on indefinite hold, because White House censorship has been so intense as to render it practically meaningless.
Reporters Without Borders has ranked the US a dismal 46th in its most recent annual press freedoms survey, representing a 14-point plummet in just one year. Another survey, by PEN, reveals that most American journalists now self-censor out of fear that the government is reading their emails and listening to their phone calls.
So not only do we have to be more engaged, we have to be more vigilant. This, of course, is easier said than done, especially when people are more worried about which Peter they'll have to rob to pay which Paul every month than what ISIS is.
And this ignorance naturally suits the bellicose gatekeepers and their propaganda merchants just fine.
To my busy friends, I recommend Polk winner Robert Parry's Consortium News for some of the best, clearest investigative journalism on the wars.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Everywhere Is War: World Edition

 America is one hell of a schizophrenic bastion of phony democracy.

Depending upon geography, the ethnicity of the target populations, and the politicians being bribed, America the Exceptional either drops proxy bombs on people (Gaza), direct-drones people ("tribal" areas), or drops packages of food, water and medicine on a carefully vetted few (a remote mountaintop in Iraq) as P.R. cover for a bombing campaign that benefits multinational oil companies ("American interests.")

To be fair, if ISIS was attacking the Gaza Strip instead of Northern Iraq, I think President Obama would also be falling all over himself condemning the genocide and defending the right of Palestinian children to live and breathe.... based purely on their physical proximity to Israel. When it's Netanyahu's terror state doing the attacking, there are of course no American planeloads of sustenance arriving to help those embargoed, starved, bombed-out victims.

To the contrary. Since the U.S. Senate has, in fact, just unanimously allocated more money to Israel for its incremental extermination of the petroleum-poor inmates of the world's largest outdoor prison, I think it's obvious to anyone paying attention that the leaky wreck of state known as the USS Hypocrisy sailed a long time ago. And all the expensive propaganda pumps in the world can't keep up with the bilge.

Obama picks and chooses his lucky humanitarian recipients based solely upon their profit potential. The world is taking notice.

 Yet, in what is increasingly looking like World War Three, Obama is portrayed by the stenographic corporate media as either a hopeless wimp (right wing/neocon/Fox/CNN) or as a reluctant warrior bound by his noble moral impulses (right of center/neoliberal/r2p/ {"responsibility to protect"}New York Times/MSNBC).

Here's how the Times' White House insider Peter Baker spins it,  
In sending warplanes back into the skies over Iraq, President Obama on Thursday night found himself exactly where he did not want to be. Hoping to end the war in Iraq, Mr. Obama became the fourth president in a row to order military action in that graveyard of American ambition.
The mandate he gave to the armed forces was more limited than that of his predecessors, focused mainly on dropping food and water. But he also authorized targeted airstrikes “if necessary” against Islamic radicals advancing on the Kurdish capital of Erbil and others threatening to wipe out thousands of non-Muslims stranded on a remote mountaintop.
Notice the immediate emphasis on the rescued being non-Muslims, lest the Islamophobes fret.
As he explained himself to a national television audience, Mr. Obama made a point of reassuring a war-weary public that the president who pulled American forces out of Iraq at the end of 2011 had no intention of fighting another full-scale war there. Yet his presence in the State Dining Room testified to the bleak reality that the tide of events in that ancient land have defied his predictions and aspirations before.
The road to hell is paved with good fake intentions. Baker forgets to mention that Obama very much wanted to keep boots on the ground in Iraq before ostensibly pulling out in 2011. But the Iraqis refused to sign a Status of Forces agreement, which would have given American contractors and troops immunity from prosecution for their imperialistic crimes, misdemeanors and those unfortunate atrocities that crop in every war where testosterone runs wild. And what does Obama's telegenic presence in the State Dining Room (instead of the intimate Oval Office) signify? Baker doesn't explain. Does it mean that Obama is hungrily awaiting his dinner? Somebody please tell me!

Baker continues quoting Obama's televised speech:
“I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these,” he said. “I understand that. I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done. As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.”
Many of us are rightly concerned about military actions all over the planet. Ukraine. Libya. Yemen. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Africa. Central and South America. The thousand known military bases throughout the globe and the unknown number of CIA/Special ops black sites and outposts. A Pentagon/Surveillance State budget in the stratosphere.

 Sorry, Obama: the United States is the dragon, not the drag-ee.... and the rest of the world is its state dinner flambé.

But let the Times continue spinning its rusty wheels:
Mr. Obama has spent months resisting just that. Even after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, seized Falluja and other territory in the western part of the country at the beginning of the year and marched through Mosul and toward Baghdad by summer, the president expressed no enthusiasm for American military action.
... in that particular locale, seeing how it evokes so many memories of the "folks" who tortured other folks and lied their way into war and essentially left Iraq in ruins. Obama is more enthusiastic about starting a new cold war against Russia, with his fascist Ukrainian neocon-installed puppets, and waging his myriad secret wars to keep up the pretense that he actually deserved his Nobel Peace Prize. He single-handedly ruined Libya, of course, and was ultimately prevented at the last minute from bombing the hell out of Syria based on what turned out to be trumped-up evidence of sarin attacks by the government.
In June, he sent in 300 special forces troops not to fight but to assess the situation, an assessment that has yet to be completed, and he increased surveillance passes over Iraq. But Mr. Obama rebuffed calls, including those from within his administration, to quickly send in air power to hit ISIS forces.
Aides said his hand was not forced until ISIS won a series of swift and stunning victories last weekend and Wednesday night against the Kurds in the north, who have been a loyal and reliable American ally, especially compared to the Baghdad government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. ISIS threats to wipe out Yazidis and other religious minorities trapped on Mount Sinjar, they said, added to the urgency.
He crept the mission and waited for the necessary crisis. Despite the best efforts of the NSA and the CIA, they never even saw ISIS (their own Frankenstein monster) coming. CNN and the Washington Post are among the bloodthirsty outlets manically reporting that this failure of intelligence is all Edward Snowden's fault. The smell of official desperation is everywhere.
“You don’t have to have a ton of insight to know he feels reluctant,” said Douglas Ollivant, a former Iraq adviser in the White House under Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush. “He wants the Iraq problem not to exist. And that’s exactly what the American people sent him to the White House to do.” But “all these factors may kind of drag him kicking and screaming into some kind of decision.”
Like I said.... the smell of official desperation is everywhere. Poor Barry just wants to go golfing, and reality will not let him. Can it get any more maudlin? I think we can count on it. Read the rest of the article, but be warned: there are gobs of viscous verbal treacle ahead. It's a veritable follow-the-money guide to the seamless transition between the brutal Bush and Obama administrations and how the various players have profited. Ollivant, for example, is a paid war-mongering network shill and venture capitalist whose tentacles extend throughout the media-military-industrial complex.

Meanwhile, ceasefire ended, the Israel-Gaza war has resumed, with another child killed in Gaza by the Netanyahu terror machine as he played near a mosque. With more than one Palestinian faction negotiating, the hellish nightmare seems bound to continue for the foreseeable future.

The fighting in Ukraine rages on.

And closer to Home Sweet Homeland, drug-addled Texas Governor Rick Perry is deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border to battle the "alien invasion." In what sounds uncomfortably close to a genocide precursor, he is even using game wardens to hunt down migrants. Animalization is tantamount to dehumanization.

And now for some perspective.

In other news, a respected climate scientist was so rattled by the recent discovery of vast plumes of methane streaming up from the Arctic sea floor that he sent out this S.O.S. tweet to the whole warring world:

“We’re on a trajectory to an unmanageable heating scenario, and we need to get off it,” he (Jason Box) said. “We’re fucked at a certain point, right? It just becomes unmanageable. The climate dragon is being poked, and eventually the dragon becomes pissed off enough to trash the place.”