Saturday, August 8, 2009

grass roots, my ass

H/t Immoral Minority for the video.

Consider this a follow-up to what I've been trying to convey regarding the orchestrated efforts to prevent Congresspersons from actually conversing with their constituents. Thankfully there are still a few professional journalists left who still take their jobs seriously, and who are willing to do some digging beneath the surface, rather than act as mere stenographers. Thankfully, too, there are those willing to do some much-needed myth busting regarding claims made by various right-wing groups regarding health care. As I said before:
I would suggest doing a lot of fact checking before going off half-cocked. There are some lobbyists and think-tanks out there engaging in quite a bit of conspiracy-theory mongering in order to manipulate you and those who are supposedly representing you.
By the way, remember those infamous "Brooks Brothers Rioters" from the "Dockers Rebellion" that shouted down and shut down the Florida recount in 2000? Well, it turns out that at least a couple of them now work for one of the corporations that is funding a lot of the current effort to shout down and shut down any effort to even mildly reform our nation's health "care" system:

Fascinating. See also Rachel Maddow's interview with Frank Schaeffer:
After watching that, read Sara Robinson's most recent essay at Orcinus, since I think she helps to illuminate further some of what Schaeffer mentioned during his interview. Also, check out David Neiwert's recent piece regarding whether this is an effort to simply kill off the town hall as a democratic forum, which by the way, is as Neiwert says, "a classically fascist thing to do."

Worth ten thousand words

Found over at Stencil Revolution: artist is studioBK; title "Atomic Stop".

Also found at Stencil Revolution: artist is planbattack; title "Aftermath". The same artist has used the same image of a Hiroshima survivor for other stencil art pieces.

A final pic from Stencil Revolution: artist is k.see; title "No More Hiroshimas". I like the sentiment of this one, which was apparently made into a flyer by the artist around the time that the US was readying its long war against the Afghans.

Aw, c'mon now, tell us how you really feel

To set the stage: A man who happens to be African-American is videotaping some of the tea-baggers at one of the recent town hall meetings, and is told by one of the tea-baggers to go back where he came from. See for yourself:



H/t Jane Hamsher. Sometimes these cats have a way of showing their true colors, dig? Speaking of which, check out some more tweets of hate (right to carry edition):
Some individual named Scott Oskay in Arizona sure has a way with words -
If ACORN/SEIU attends these meetings for disruptive purposes, and you have a license to carry....carry.
If ACORN/SEIU attends these meetings for disruption, stop being peaceful, and hurt them. Badly.
Spoken like a true two-bit thug. Never ceases to amaze me who shows up at the town halls these days. If it ain't political operatives working for a party or corporate lobby, then it's the black helicopter crowd. The former probably won't do much more than act obnoxious - after all, they're building their resumes. A few of the more unhinged among the latter, on the other hand, are probably at risk to do some damage if history is any indicator. The brazenness of both of these groups may be a signal of something more ominous, if Sara at Orcinus is correct.

Friday, August 7, 2009

This ain't grass roots, part the third

Woman posing as "ordinary mom" at a recent town hall meeting on health care is exposed as a GOP operative. How many other Heather Blishes are there at these town hall meetings? As I've said earlier - the "angry" crowds at these meetings may be little more than some competent method acting by political operatives, rather than genuine sentiment among a Congressperson's constituents. The situation is very analogous to the "Dockers Rebellion" in Florida that ended up quashing any hope of a recount in the 2000 Presidential election; many who comprised that mob were GOP operatives.

field negro nails it

Regarding King Dittohead Limbaugh and his wingnut loyalists, field negro sez:
I think you have fired up the base enough. To them, this is not just entertainment and political theater. To them, this is about the Kenyan and his ultra liberal buddies taking their beloved country. Rush, I don't think they can tell the difference between reality and entertainment, but I think you already know that.

Even for you, the Nazi stuff was over the top. You and Beck with all this Nazi talk is starting to scare us normal thinking folks. ("Killing the elderly and the newborn"? Are you serious?) Quite a few of the people on the right side of the political spectrum are just looking for the slightest reason to snap, and the events of the last few days have convinced me that it doesn't take too much to send them over the edge. But I am starting to think that Rush knows that, too.

Rush went as far as to compare the Obama health care logo to a Nazi symbol, and he suggested that it was intentional.

Don't laugh. This is how Rush compares the dems to Nazis:

"Well, the Nazis were against big business -- they hated big business. And of course we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working, one of which was the Autobahn. They were against cruelty and vivisection of animals, but in the radical sense of devaluing human life, they banned smoking. They were totally against that. They were for abortion and euthanasia of the undesirables, as we all know, and they were for cradle-to-grave nationalized healthcare."

How can lunatics on the right ignore these dog whistles? They can't. And I am starting to believe that Rush and company doesn't want them to. All this can't be just about health insurance reform? I wonder what it could be? Hmmmmmmmm.

Seriously folks, I wonder if Rush and company realize that the product of Kanya (That's Kansas and Kenya, get it?) is receiving up to 30 death threats a day now? That's up almost 400% from previous presidents.


Ahh what was I thinking? Of course he does.
Rush knows it, and simply either doesn't care or is absolutely ecstatic (my bet is on the latter).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Big surprise - Birthers fall for an obvious hoax

You can read more about it in The Washington Independent. It appears that the latest "Kenyan birth certificate" was the handiwork of some anonymous blogger wanting to play a prank. Birthers are relatively easy victims for hoaxes since they are so uncritically emotionally bound to their particular pet conspiracy theorizing that they will accept any "evidence" consistent with their beliefs without bothering to question its validity. Pass the popcorn.

Charlie Haden turns 72

Charlie Haden is a jazz bassist probably best known for his work as a member of Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking bands of the late 1950s and early 1960s, producing music that truly pushed the envelope in the jazz world. He'd later reprise Ornette Coleman's early music with several other former Coleman bandmates during the 1970s and 1980s as Old and New Dreams, would lead the Liberation Music Orchestra (a sort of avant-garde jazz supergroup whose first album was primarily a tribute to the freedom fighters of the Spanish Civil War), and continue to work as a sideman for numerous prominent jazzers as well as record as a leader. I really haven't followed Haden's later work, but have a deep appreciation for his contributions as a composer and sideman during a very exciting period not only for jazz, but for music in general.

Here are a couple of videos in which Haden performs. First, with Carla Bley and the new Liberation Music Orchestra (circa 2003):



Finally, here's a blast from what I'm guessing is about the late 1970s or early 1980s with the Liberation Music Orchestra as they play the anthem of the African National Congress:


Give the man props for his willingness to make a statement with music.

This ain't grass roots redux

Consider this a follow up to This Ain't Grass Roots and Those Who Cannot Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It. If one wonders my skepticism regarding the extent to which those showing up to disrupt the August Congressional town-hall meetings are genuinely concerned constituents and who are merely plants shuttled in from elsewhere to create the illusion that constituents are satisfied with the status quo on health care, just watch the video and follow the links. I would suggest doing a lot of fact checking before going off half-cocked. There are some lobbyists and think-tanks out there engaging in quite a bit of conspiracy-theory mongering in order to manipulate you and those who are supposedly representing you.

Personally, I'm convinced that the system as it stands now is broken. Occasionally, I've discussed my own dealings with the health "care" system in the US. I'm also convinced that Obama's proposed solution (and similar solutions working their way through Congress) will not go nearly far enough, but represent only a very tentative first step towards a system that might one day actually work.

Update: via the post at TPM, one lobbyist group involved in disrupting town hall meetings is none other than Glenn Beck's 9-12 Project.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Never Forget

I've been reprising a particular post as a remembrance for those killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for a while now, adding elements as need be. Sadly, it is that time again.

Boston.com has a photo essay entitled, Hiroshima, 64 Years Ago. Here are a couple of the photos, which give just a hint of the extent of human suffering that was inflicted:




John Ross sez1:
Seventy-one thousand three-hundred seventy-nine were incinerated by the Atomic Bomb on August 5th, 1945 at Hiroshima to "save lives"; 49,205 at Nagasaki three days later to "save lives"; 83,783 on my seventh birthday, March 11th, when the U.S. bombed Tokyo with 16,000 tons of Napalm, yup, "to save lives." The year before, the allies saturation-bombed Dresden, taking another 135,000 lives "to save lives." The four bombings together total up to around 340,000 deaths, 99.99% of them civilians who just got in the way. Given the 3,000 vaporized up in the Twin Towers, there is an important karmic deficit outstanding.
Jeremiah Wright sez:
We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.
Here are a couple pictures from the aftermath:


Photos by Robert Capp, recently posted to the site for the book Atomic Tragedy (h/t Huffington Post).

Look mummy, there's an aeroplane up in the sky"

Oooooooo ooo ooo ooooh(x 3)
Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter
With the promise of a brave new world
Unfurled beneath a clear blue sky?

Oooooooo ooo ooo ooooh (x 3)
Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
The flames are all long gone, but the pain lingers on.

Goodbye, blue sky
Goodbye, blue sky.
Goodbye.(x 3)

"Goodbye Blue Sky" - The Wall - Pink Floyd - 1979
In my rear view mirror the sun is going down
Sinking behind bridges in the road
And I think of all the good things
That we have left undone
And I suffer premonitions
Confirm suspicions
Of the holocaust to come.

The rusty wire that holds the cork
That keeps the anger in
Gives way
And suddenly it's day again.
The sun is in the east
Even though the day is done.
Two suns in the sunset
Hmmmmmmmmmm
Could be the human race is run.

Like the moment when the brakes lock
And you slide towards the big truck
"Oh no!"
You stretch the frozen moments with your fear.
[scream]
And you'll never hear their voices
"Daddy, Daddy!"
And you'll never see their faces
You have no recourse to the law anymore.

And as the windshield melts
My tears evaporate
Leaving only charcoal to defend.
Finally I understand the feelings of the few.
Ashes and diamonds
Foe and friend
We were all equal in the end.

"...and now the weather. Tomorrow will be cloudy with scattered showers
spreading from the east ... with an expected high of 4000 degrees
Celsius"

"Two Suns in the Sunset" - The Final Cut - Pink Floyd - 1983
Two lyrics that I thought seemed as timely as ever. Not my favorite period of Floyd musically (they pretty much petered out after about 1975), but those two songs were high points on their respective albums.

The photo of the cherry blossoms was nicked from this review of "Orignal Child Bomb", by Madman in the Marketplace.

"nuclear war / it's a motherfucker / don't you know / if they push that button / your ass got to go"

-- Sun Ra
Well, I think the thing that astonished him the most -- I mean, there were many things that he found astonishing. Remember, he went in there four weeks, almost to the minute, after the bomb was dropped, which was on the 6th of September in mid-morning, is when he arrived. And he was struck obviously by several things, by the physical appearance of the city, which was still smoldering here and there, by the surgical precision of the bomb itself. Later, he was to learn that, in fact, a great deal of damage had been done not just by the bomb, but by the fires that erupted because people were cooking their midday meal when the bomb hit, and a number of wooden residences just caught fire, and the fire spread. So, in a way, it was kind of like a Dresden.

And as he went around the ruins of the city and rapidly began visiting all of the hospital facilities that still existed, I know he was struck immediately, first by the absence of any American medical personnel there – four weeks later, there were still no doctors or nurses – and then, by the great precision and care with which the Japanese doctors had already catalogued the effects of the bomb on individual organs of the body.

And over the next few days, he was as astonished as the Japanese doctors were, of course, by what he referred to in his reports as “Disease X.” It was perhaps not so astonishing to see some of the scorches and burns that people had suffered, but to see people apparently unblemished at all by the bomb, who had seemingly survived intact, suddenly finding themselves feeling unwell and going to hospital, sitting there on their cots surrounded by doctors and relatives who could do nothing, and finding when he would go back the next day that they had just died, or that -- let's say a woman who had come through unscathed making dinner for her husband and having the misfortune to make a very small cut in her finger while peeling a lemon, would just keep bleeding, and bleed to death, because the platelets in her bloodstream had been so reduced that the blood couldn’t clot anymore.

So there were case after case like this, and in a way, I think my father found them more poignant than the obvious destruction or the obvious burn victims, because here was a whole team of Japanese doctors, very able, very aware from long before the war had started about the potentials of radiation, absolutely baffled. And he had a wonderful phrase he used. He said the effects of the bomb uncured because -- excuse me, the effects of “Disease X,” which is what they were calling it, uncured because it is untreated, and untreated because it is undiagnosed.
Nerdified Link. Food for thought as we observe Hiroshima and Nagasaki's tragic anniversaries, and as we face the very real threat that the US will keep the option of nuclear war against Iran's civilians "on the table" (as the Lush/Zany, McCain, and Obama gangs would say). Let us also observe as people of conscience the lies that the propaganda machine spewed in the aftermath of Hiroshima's and Nagasaki's nuking as they likely would be recycled by whichever White House regime chooses to nuke into oblivion fellow human beings. We must always remember. Never forget, never forgive.

1. Ross, J., (2004), Murdered by Capitalism, pp. 305-306.

Squeaky Fromme to be paroled

Squeaky may not have been involved in the infamous Tate and Labianca murders committed by members of Charles Manson's "Family", but she certainly had some notoriety all her own. For a while, after Manson was apprehended and during his murder trial, Fromme was the defacto leader [1] of the Family. She would later attempt to assassinate Gerald Ford, which is why she ended up behind bars. On August 16th, she'll be released after serving 34 years in prison. Whether or not Fromme is still one of Manson's true believers is unknown.

As an aside, I was recently re-reading Bugliosi's book about the Manson case, Helter Skelter, and found his description of Manson as a sort of "right-wing hippie" quite apt, insofar as Manson adopted the hippie look and insofar as Manson's own political views were not that much different from others who are characterized as right-wing extremists: the dude was highly authoritarian, racist, and sexist. He had a strong admiration for Adolph Hitler (in Manson's view, Hitler had "leveled the Jews' karma"), and had a rather Hitlerian reading of Nietzsche's philosophical work.

And yes, the 40 year anniversaries of the Tate and Labianca murders are coming up in a matter of days. Sadly, there are still people who glorify Manson and the others who committed those murders.

[1] I use leader somewhat loosely, as her leadership role amounted to keeping the Family together, but was in principle still operating at the behest of Manson.

Bears repeating

The "Birthers" have been on my radar since June 2008, when urban legends about Obama's citizenship first made national headlines (and were quickly debunked). My own interest in repeatedly sharing any information debunking these morons comes less from some affinity for Obama and his policies (poke around here long enough, and my true colors as a leftist skeptic who hasn't much cared for the center-right Democratic party for - at this point - decades will become clear as day). Rather, my interest comes from a strong disdain for urban legends and conspiracy theories. Urban legends (and this goes too for conspiracy theories) succeed to the extent that they 1) play on the fears or hopes of a particular target audience, and 2) have just enough surface plausibility to seem initially credible. The thing is, once one actually does some homework, there turns out to be no substance to the claims made in an urban legend. The internet era has been both a blessing and a curse when it comes to urban legends. On the positive side, one is just a few keystrokes or mouse clicks away from finding the necessary evidence regarding the validity of any urban legend under the sun. On the negative side, urban legends propagate much more rapidly than ever before. I know my email account is often flooded with urban legends sent via mass emails (most of which now thankfully get picked up by my spam filters). Thing is, the more falsehoods get repeated, the more believable they appear. Hence the need to have at your disposal tools for determining if the information you're receiving is valid, or if it is nothing more than a load of bovine fecal matter. My usual rule of thumb is that if something seems a bit far-fetched, it probably is. Still it is helpful to check things out.

In the past, with regard to the nonsense propagated by the Birthers, I have strongly recommended the efforts of the fine folks at snopes.com and FactCheck.org. Both resources are invaluable. The fine folks at Salon have assembled what they call a handy-dandy guide to refuting the Birthers, which takes each of the main points made by Birthers, and in turn debunks them. Although I hadn't found anything in the Salon article that hadn't already been taken care of by snopes.com (a few of my favorites here, here, here, and here) and FactCheck.org, I do see a great deal of value in having as much of the evidence needed to debunk the Birthers' myth-making in one convenient location. Of course I hold out no hope that the hard-core true believers will be persuaded that they are in error - what I know about motivated cognition leads me to the conclusion that the true believers will hang on desperately to the myth regardless of those inconvenient facts that keep getting in the way. Rather, I hope instead that although a big lie told often enough may become believable, if that big lie is vigorously refuted every time it is told, it will lose much of its potency (its ability to influence others in the future). If there is any good news thus far, it is that at this point the Birthers are a marginalized minority of the public limited to a particular region (the southeastern US) and a particular political party (GOP), and their claims have had no traction outside of those two demographic categories.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Inspiring story

Check "Be Who You Are" by Rochelle Hamilton. Her take-home message is especially worth passing along:

I go to school to learn, but the experience of standing up for myself and for my rights taught me some important lessons.

Lesson Number One: Students can take a stand against adults who discriminate. And they can win. Even when those adults are teachers.

Lesson Number Two: I have the right to be myself. You have the right to be yourself. We all have the right.

So this is my message to everybody else being discriminated against: keep fighting, be who you are ‘till the day you die, always stand up for yourself.
Where I reside, the last school board meeting I attended dealt in part with the upcoming school year's student handbook. Apparently there was talk about adding language that would have forbidden students from bringing same-sex dates to events such as junior and senior proms. Fortunately, one of the board members had done some double-checking with some legal eagles who impressed upon him that the district would be opening itself up to potential law suits for discrimination, and that even in my somewhat reactionary state the district would likely lose any such suits. We may be rural, but we also do have our share of GLBT high school and college students in the area, and this isn't quite like the bad old days where schools could get away with being blatantly discriminatory.

I concur with Rochelle that it is crucial to keep fighting for your rights, because those who are motivated to quash constitutional rights never stop looking for ways to do so. We learned last year first-hand that battles that should have been over a generation ago are still periodically reignited, and often over the dumbest of things (in our school district it was, of all things, hair length). Elsewhere it is over religion, and so on. In a sense, the culture wars from the baby boom era are over, but there are some folks out there who, like some Japanese soldier from WWII stranded on a deserted island, never got the message; such folks are still quite capable of inflicting damage.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it

Something to think about when one gets the news of tea-baggers disrupting congressional town hall meetings this month: how many of those showing up to disrupt are genuine, and how many are stooges for some corporate or right-wing interest group (h/t Prometheus 6)?

Update: Is it acceptable for those who attend town hall meetings to physically assault Congresspersons?

Musical Interlude: Dead Kennedys vs Gil Scott-Heron



Take two classics from respected recording artists (in this case proto-rapper Gil Scott-Heron and Dead Kennedys), do a mashup, and this is what you might get: "Revolution Über Alles."

This ain't grass roots

field negro sez:
I was only going to post about Lark tonight until I read an article and saw a video of some of the artificial turf people interrupting another town hall meeting. This one wasn't about health care, but about a high speed rail thanks to the stimulus package. These clowns were all over Steny Hoyer (D-MD), ( I love that name)and kept shouting him down the entire time. What a bunch of losers. The leader of the pack was some guy named Don Jeror and he leads a group called the Fort Stanwix Patriots. (They can't be serious! They actually have different patriot groups? ) But poor Steny wasn't alone. Apparently Claire McCaskill got shouted down as well, and she joins a group of politicians who felt the wrath of the tea baggers, like Arlen Specter and Lloyd Doggett. One poor Senator who has been diagnosed with cancer was even told to "kill himself." If these people seem somewhat organized and well funded, it's because they are. There is nothing grass roots about these people. They are funded by health care lobbyist and wingnuts with deep pockets.

Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

Personally, I always found Blackwater (or these days Xe) and its founder, Erik Prince, more than a little creepy, for lack of a better way of putting it. So, I'm not that surprised to read that Erik Prince has been implicated in murdering or facilitating the murdering of those cooperating with authorities who are currently investigating the company. Just to give you a bit of the story:
A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.

The former employee, identified in the court documents as "John Doe #2," is a former member of Blackwater's management team, according to a source close to the case. Doe #2 alleges in a sworn declaration that, based on information provided to him by former colleagues, "it appears that Mr. Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct." John Doe #2 says he worked at Blackwater for four years; his identity is concealed in the sworn declaration because he "fear[s] violence against me in retaliation for submitting this Declaration." He also alleges, "On several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince's employ, Mr. Prince's management has personally threatened me with death and violence."

In a separate sworn statement, the former US marine who worked for Blackwater in Iraq alleges that he has "learned from my Blackwater colleagues and former colleagues that one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information about Erik Prince and Blackwater have been killed in suspicious circumstances." Identified as "John Doe #1," he says he "joined Blackwater and deployed to Iraq to guard State Department and other American government personnel." It is not clear if Doe #1 is still working with the company as he states he is "scheduled to deploy in the immediate future to Iraq." Like Doe #2, he states that he fears "violence" against him for "submitting this Declaration." No further details on the alleged murder(s) are provided.

By all means read the rest. Also check out Steve Hynd's take on the unfolding story. He's right that assuming all the above is true, it is but a portion of a much larger story. That story is about the spectacular amount of corruption and criminality involved in waging the "War on Terra" as it was once known (those who know me well enough by now realize that my criticisms of the "War on Terra" which includes the wars against the Afghans and the Iraqis are not limited merely to the way it has been executed, but to the whole damned enterprise). One facet of my my thoughts on the "War on Terra" regarding the Iraq War (or more properly, that war's third and most recent phase) can be found here. As I said at the time:
The far less feel-good narrative is that those who pushed for and executed the war knew exactly what they were doing, and are quite comfortable with the massive human displacement that has resulted. In other contexts, it gets referred to as "shock therapy," and indeed Naomi Klein refers to Iraq as just one more test case for Friedmanesque neoliberalism in her recent book, The Shock Doctrine (here's a video that gives you some idea of what to expect from the book - not a substitute for reading the book of course!!). Heck, RickB of Ten Percent makes something of a reference to Klein's book in his post The Surge Doctrine - which is what turned me on to the article I just excerpted (a tip o' the hat to you RickB!). The complete drain of qualified scholars and technicians has guaranteed that Iraq - or whatever it eventually becomes - will be stuck with US and UK firms running the country (for a hefty fee, of course), while the rest of the government is little more than a hollowed-out shell. For some corporate executives, it's quite a racket they're running. The masses of now-disposable humanity, kept largely out of sight and out of mind is by design. Those few Iraqis who manage to make any semblance of a living there will accept ridiculously low wages without complaint for fear of losing even that pittance. As long as the chaos remains contained outside of The Green Zone, everything is just hunky-dory.

In another context, Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas referred to the mass-displacement caused by NAFTA as genocidal. That would seem quite an apt summary of what's going on in Iraq.
As an aside, a short-lived television series, Jericho, did a decent job of portraying Blackwater's style with the fictitious mercenary outfit Ravenwood.

Another pseudonymous blogger outed

I already had a low opinion of those who "out" those who blog or write under a pseudonym long before someone outed me this past May (something I've discussed at length in relation to yet another blogger's outing a couple months ago). The latest blogger to be outed was Gryphen of The Immoral Minority. As was the case with AKMuckraker of Mudflats, Gryphen was outed by a prominent Alaska state politician. Yes, I concur with Gryphen that the experience can be a bit "unsettling." If there is any comfort to be found, it is in that those who "out" someone else usually end up looking much the worse for it than the one who is outed. The image of pettiness and vindictiveness on the part of the perps is pretty difficult to completely shake. Hopefully, aside from being left feeling a bit creeped out, Gryphen will be able to proceed with minimal disruption to his personal and professional life.

Why the perceived "need" to out someone who writes under an assumed name? I can chalk it up to any of a number of motives - all of which are bad. One is simple revenge - someone's feelings get hurt (they're asked inconvenient questions, or are the target of scuttlebutt, or whatever) by someone writing under an assumed name, and then choose - either directly, or through proxies - to attempt to destroy the person behind the pseudonym. By "outing" the person behind the pseudonym, it is the hope of the perp or perps to disrupt their victim's career or other facets of that person's life. That was the situation with AKMuckraker and Gryphen. Sometimes, the motive comes from an on-going argument between bloggers or between a blogger and some other figure in the world of punditry. The perp is on what appears to be the losing end of a debate, gets frustrated, and in a moment of rage outs his/her opponent. That's what I believe happened to publius in June. Sometimes, one is simply targeted by some random weirdo sans provocation of any sort. That was my situation. Usually, what ends up happening is one of two things - after a bit of a dust-up, the perp realizes the error of his/her ways and apologizes (the person who outed publius had the decency to do that with a matter of days). Often, the perps refuse to acknowledge any wrong-doing, electing instead to blame the victim (word to the wise - if your defense of your actions is of the same caliber of that used by rapists and wife-beaters, don't expect to persuade outside parties, save for those most rabid members of your particular tribe).

My rule of thumb when it comes to "outing" is very simple: don't. The only circumstance I could ever think of where outing person using a pseudonym would be warranted would be if the person in question were making threats of violence or inciting others to commit violence, and the person doing the outing was one of the targets of those threats. If that isn't your particular situation, then you are highly unlikely to have any reason to out that person. If you still find yourself tempted to out the other person simply because the other person pissed you off, then please, just step away from the fucking computer and cool off before you go off and do something stupid, and quite frankly just plain unforgivable. That goes double for public figures, who not only are going to come out looking petty and vindictive, but who then are open to accusations of abusing their positions of power or authority.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"This is the Talibanisation of the conflict."

A couple months ago, some articles on a Focus on the Family-inspired Mexican drug cartel (that calls itself La Familia) caught my attention. What grabbed my attention was not only the brutality of the killings attributed to the cartel, but also its hyper-masculinized version of Christianity that the cartel and its leaders espouse. At the time, I mused that there was an eerie similarity between La Familia and Afghanistan's Taliban. As it turns out, I'm probably far from alone in seeing an analogy between those two rather distant groups. According to Jo Tuckman and Ed Vulliamy in their recent mid-July article, Drugs 'Taliban' declares war on Mexican state (h/t Global Gurrillas):

The male voice on the line was not a typical contributor to the Voice and Solution TV programme where residents of the Mexican state of Michoacán air their everyday grievances.

"We want President Felipe Calderón to know that we are not his enemies," the caller said, after introducing himself last Wednesday as Servando Gómez Martínez, nicknamed La Tuta, one of the leaders of La Familia drug cartel. "We are open to dialogue."

It was a rare and chilling public intervention by the leader of a cartel fighting a war that has claimed 11,000 lives in three years. And the jibe to Calderón that "we are not his enemies" was a taunt marking a dramatic turn in the course of the war: a co-ordinated spate of savage attacks not between narco cartels but by La Familia against the Mexican state.

There have been relentless attacks on police forces - even the decapitation of eight soldiers and the murder of a general - in recent months, but last weekend saw the most concerted attacks on the federal police to date, raising further the spectre of an all-out narco insurrection in Mexico of a kind that ravaged Colombia 20 years ago. "This is a new phase in the drug war," said Samuel González, a former Mexican drug tsar in the mid-1990s and now a consistent critic of Calderón's force-based strategy against the cartels which he believes is making things worse. "This is the Talibanisation of the conflict."

Carlos Flores, who has studied the drug war, said: "It shows a new willingness to directly confront the federal government with paramilitary techniques and psychological warfare. And it is a warning of possible future assassinations of federal officials of higher rank."

The arrest last Saturday of Arnold Rueda Medina, nicknamed La Minsa, was the trigger for 21 attacks on the federal police - by far the most sustained challenge to government forces ever launched by a cartel. For the Mexican government, the attacks end all pretence that this crisis is confined to a turf war between cartels: this is an insurrection.

The article goes on to describe how La Familia has been able to grow into a formidable insurgent force - basically by filling a void with a combination of the gospel and tangible community support (La Familia apparently builds schools, roads and churches), funded by, of course, their drug trade. The article makes for an informative read. I highly recommend it, along with the material I pointed to in early June. You will gain an insight into a group that in degree isn't much different from our own home-grown Taliban wannabes, and in fact has actually drawn inspiration from our own extreme religious fanatics.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nope - they never will stop

The Birthers will fall for just about any hoax that comes along. Steve Benen's latest post is hence aptly titled. One of his commenters, Sarah Barracuda, had I thought an observation that bears repeating:

"United States Office of Strategic Services in describing Hitler's psychological profile:

His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

And don't forget, either, that this kind of philosophy is being followed by C Streeters whose founder admired Hitler, along with Pol Pot, as "great men" to be emulated.

Keep rubbing their noses in the truth. That might not change their minds too much, but it might have an impact on observers who might otherwise be influenced.

Palin and Ahmadinejad: mirror images?

While I could care less about the "maybe, maybe not" claims regarding an impending Palin divorce, which I consider nothing but a sideshow, what Palin continues to stand for is of concern given that she's still the face of the GOP. As the title of this post should make clear, there is good reason to believe that both Sarah Palin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have quite a bit in common, at least to the extent that they are both right-wing populists. What is right-wing populism? Juan Cole gives an apt enough description:
Right-wing populism, rooted in the religion, culture and aspirations of the lower middle class, is often caricatured as insane by its critics. That judgment is unfair. But it is true that such movements often encourage a political style of exhibitionism, disregard for the facts as understood by the mainstream media, and exaltation of the values of people who feel themselves marginalized by the political system. Not all forms of protest, however, are healthy, even if the protesters have legitimate grievances. Right-wing populism is centered on a theory of media conspiracy, a "my country right or wrong" chauvinism, a fascination with an armed citizenry, an intolerance of dissent and a willingness to declare political opponents mere terrorists. It is cavalier in its disregard of elementary facts and arrogant about the self-evident rightness of its religious and political doctrines. It therefore holds dangers both for the country in which it grows up and for the international community.
Spend some time reading about the two of them, and one will figure really quickly that both espouse a very rigid fundamentalism (Palin as a Christianist, Ahmadinejad as an Islamist), both have strong ties to right-wing "patriot" or militia groups in their respective countries, both portray their political opponents and those dissenting against their respective policies and beliefs as pampered elitists, both tend to be allergic to inconvenient facts that might derail their ambitions, both adore militaristic language, and both seem to have at best a love-hate relationship with their respective party leadership. Under different circumstances, they'd be a match made in heaven.

Another resource for myth-busting:

TruthOrFiction.com comes highly recommended by one of the members of Newshoggers. See for yourself with regard to the various viral emails that are circulating regarding the proposed health care bill. My suggestion is to reply to friends who forward some of the nonsense that will no doubt bombard our inboxes with a link to TruthOrFiction.com's research on the proposed health care bill. These cats are doing their homework. Of course mad props are in order to Hootsbuddy at Newshoggers for turning me on to a new resource for testing urban legends.

Three core Oklahoma values?

The following easily describe current US Senator Jim Inhofe (and I would also add Tom Coburn): intolerance, ignorance, and incompetence. Both Senators certainly represent a substantial subset of Oklahoma residents to the extent that many seem to enjoy wallowing in their willful ignorance every bit as much as the Senators themselves (simply spend a little time perusing BNN's Oklahoma feeds, and you'll get my drift in a hurry). Inhofe has distinguished himself as of late for his encouragement of the Birthers. He's also notorious for his fondness for the all-mighty Oil conglomerates and has well-represented their interests during his tenure. And of course there's that whole "family values" vibe of his that comes across as more than a little racist and sexist. I really don't consider Coburn any better (Coburn also appears to support the Birthers, for example).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Musical Interlude:



"Red House" by Jimi Hendrix - h/t Bernard Chazelle at ATF, who really knows his shit when it comes to music. There are times I wish I could read music well enough to get into some of the theoretical nitty gritty that Chazelle does; as a music fan about all I can usually say is that a particular tune (or particular performance) sounds good or not so good to my ears. This one sounds good. I remember reading a while back that had Hendrix not died so young, he and Miles Davis would have hooked up for some wicked jams. I would have loved to have heard the resulting records (bootleg or official) that would have resulted from those recording sessions that sadly never came to pass. Although usually considered a rocker or bluesman, Hendrix was no stranger to jazz, and toward the end of his life had apparently been jamming with the likes of John McLaughlin (the cat who was behind the Mahavishnu Orchestra - its earlier incarnations being quite exciting - and who had himself performed with Miles Davis on his early forays into jazz fusion). Hendrix also appeared in an early rap recording led by a cat who called himself Lightnin' Rod (a stage name for sometimes-Last Poets member alal Mansur Nuriddin), which would be released posthumously in the early 1980s under the title Doriella du Fontaine (I wrote about that recording about four years ago). Some consider that recording, as well as a subsequent 1973 recording by Lightnin' Rod called Hustlers Convention, as precursors to the sub-genre known as gangsta rap.

What is there left to say?

I have linked to memeorandum for a good couple years or so. Occasionally, my blog gets picked up as part of the discussion to one of the links at the site (for which I am always appreciative). Sometimes there is some genuinely substantive news and opinion. Sometimes, the page seems filled with propaganda. But tonight, I come home from our annual school clothes shopping adventure (I'll tell that story another time - suffice it to say, I nearly have a heart attack each time I look at the cost of kids' school clothes) and find memeorandum looking like something out of the National Enquirer:

I'm guessing that is more exciting fare than news that data from the first 12 months of the current recession indicate that the US economy shrunk more than twice what had originally been estimated (the headline I thought was quite attention-grabbing: US Recession Worst Since Great Depression, Revised Data Show). Did you know that there have been 69 bank failures this year, so far? Anyone paying attention to the casualty situation in Afghanistan? Ever wonder how global warming is affecting the northern hemisphere, or how global warming might be shifting deserts to higher latitudes? How about finding out about what the Gates case really tells us about the state of our civil rights and liberties?

Instead, it's bread and circuses.