07.29.11

The standee

Posted in Decline and Fall, Extremism at 7:51 am by George Smith

The President as a cardboard standee in the recent mess, referenced similarly through quote collected by Krugman:

Now we are in the midst of a debt crisis that stems largely from Obama’s inability to accept the intransigence of his political opponents … I think if Obama had the sort of experience that Cold War presidents had in dealing with the Soviet Union or that corporate executives and union leaders had in negotiating labor contracts he wouldn’t have been so naïve about the Republicans, who have never hidden the fact that their only objective is defeating him next year regardless of the cost — Reaganite, Bruce Bartlett, now someone who couldn’t exist in the modern GOP


And the Obama appears recklessly unwilling to circumvent the debt ceiling, since it would eliminate his leverage for pushing through entitlement cuts.

Yet as we’ve discussed, the outcomes the players have committed themselves to are either shooting the economy or bleeding it to death..

But as a friend of mine likes to say, “Things always look darkest before they go completely black.” — Yves Smith, who starts off by comparing the Obama administration and the debt crisis to Nero and the burn down of Rome

Earlier in the month Bartlett explicitly painted the debt ceiling crisis as a security threat. Which, if you take it logically, means the GOP/Tea Party is a national security threat, a position I’ve held for months.

Extremists of all kinds, which I have an entire tab to here, often remain just annoying kooks for life. But some of them infrequently become very dangerous threats to national security. And a collection of them has now figured out how to render US government inoperable from a minority position.

Bartlett made the reasonable claim that the US military is an oil protection force. It’s not a historically unique argument. Nixon aide Kevin Phillips made a similar one in his book American Theocracy, now several years old.

(Phillips book’s observation was that American politics had become lethal and that the country was in danger of entering permanent decline. The book was not an easy read but it’s turned out to be fairly prescient. It preceded and did not foresee the arrival of the Tea Party but did spend about a third of its print space discussing the takeover of the GOP by rigid theocrats incompatible with working government. Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who didn’t politically exist at the time of Phillips’ book, a person who believes the US should go into default, is a banner example of American Theocracy’s arguments taken to their final destination.)

But back to Bartlett. In making the brief claim that the military was an oil protection force aimed at maintaining American security by guaranteeing the nation’s economic well-being through preservation of the flow of oil, Bartlett extended the reasoning to the debt ceiling. He argued that raising the debt ceiling was inextricably tied to the economic health of the nation, like oil, and therefore a security matter.

This was followed by a demand (or suggestion) that the President take charge and raise the debt ceiling through the 14th Amendment, rescuing the nation from a security threat. (That argument, at the New York Times, is here.)


The standee is in here, too. “If you don’t lower the corporate tax rate and give us more subsidies — will shoot what’s left of this mutt!” it reads.

07.28.11

Carpetbagging on tragedy

Posted in Bioterrorism, Extremism at 3:01 pm by George Smith

The bioterror defense lobby is easy to view with scorn. It works hard to earn it.

A reader of DD blog points out an ugly matter if you follow how people within the Beltway use world events to push their personal and professional hobby horses.

On Tuesay, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius used Anders Breivik’s Norwegian slaughter to pimp a report having to do with chemical and bioterrorism, a pamphlet issued by Richard Danzig and a lot of et al at the Center for New American Security.

Opined Ignatius:

But Friday’s attack in Oslo by Anders Behring Breivik teaches some broader lessons, too: There are homicidal cults all over the world — some in Muslim countries and some in the heart of Europe. Some attackers will be found insane by courts, but others will have a diabolical logic and lucidity — and the world has to be ready for all of them.

Most important, the next time the weapons of choice may not be a bomb and a semiautomatic rifle, as in the case of the Oslo attacker who killed 76 people. Lunatics and sane plotters alike may have access to chemical and biological weapons that could kill thousands.

As in so many terrorist cases — and with al-Qaeda itself — this latest extremist didn’t sneak up on the world. He all but announced his anti-immigrant views on the Internet.

To understand the dangers posed by these borderline extremists, I recommend a new report by Richard Danzig and his colleagues at the Center for a New American Security. It’s a case study of the only terrorist group that has successfully used chemical and biological weapons on a mass scale — the Japanese religious cult Aum Shinrikyo. It poisoned the Tokyo subway system with sarin, a deadly nerve gas, in 1995, causing 13 deaths and an astounding 6,252 injuries.

One can imagine this bit of opportunism just as it happened.

The Norway case is used as a convenient hook to carpetbag a report from the Center for New American Security into the news, a paper that under standard circumstances virtually nobody except some field experts and members of the bioterror defense lobby would read.

It’s transparently cynical, not only for what has been already mentioned, but for using the old Japanese attack by the Aum Shinrikyo group as an argument for stoking the usual fears as if these apply only to us.

Unfortunately, this tragedy is Norway’s and as for finger-pointing and lesson taking, and there has been some, parts of the twisted trail do not indicate much like the peculiar cult run by Shoko Asahara.

Instead, we have other novel peculiarities, like the fascination with the Knights Templar, the writings of American right wing bloggers and one famous US woodsman terrorist fond of inside-the-shack-made bombs.

The reports to read, then, on understanding extremist terrorism were not by Richard Danzig et al and the Center for New American Security at all.

But, instead, as most of the press has commented upon already — Breivik’s appreciation for such as the Unabomber Manifesto and the right wing blog of American Robert Spencer.

When looking at the Breivik slaughter, Shoko Asahara and Aum Shinrikyo aren’t the best match. There are no particular lessons here unless one takes the broadest strokes, that crazy and violent people sometimes but not often succeed spectacularly and that Aum Shinrikyo operated for a long time with Japanese authorities failing to act.

Neither of these are unique in the annals of terrorism. Really bad stuff happens and not very often. But when it does people are invariably taken by surprise even if in post-analysis it looks like they shouldn’t have been. To err is part of the human condition. Nothing can change it.

The Aum Shinrikyo group launched a nerve gas attack in Matsumoto in 1994 which Japanese authorities failed to recognize. That strike killed seven and injured 200.

Somewhat less than a year later, the group attacked the Tokyo subway, killing about a dozen.

A Centers for Disease Control page on the incident is sufficient for understanding, and its older information does not substantially differ from what was written by Ignatius for the Post (preumably furnished by Danzig):

By the end of day [of Shinrikyo’s second attack], 15 subway stations in the world’s busiest subway system had been affected. Of these, stations along the Hbiya line were the most heavily affected, some with as many as 300 to 400 persons involved. The number injured in the attacks was just under 3,800. Of those, nearly 1,000 actually required hospitalization—some for no more than a few hours, some for many days. A very few are still hospitalized. And 12 people were dead.

Instead of using the Norway attack, instant worldwide news, as a convenience, the parties involved might have shown the good grace not to work it so.

As it stands, the Ignatius piece is noticeable for being flinch-worthy in its audacity. And for being a minor example/lesson on how people parked at national security think tanks view stuff.

Social Welfare Group my ass

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 1:04 pm by George Smith

Little Tommy Friedman had a piece in Sunday’s NYT on how two investors/hedge fund managers going under the rubric, Americans Elect, were going to reinvent democracy on the Internet by spiking the primary races with new third party candidates.

Whenever Little Tommy writes that something is good for us, it’s just the opposite. If Little Tommy says something is right and good, it is wrong and probably evil, too.

Today’s frontpage story in the LA Times covers Americans Elect.

“Its status as a social welfare group has enabled it to keep private its financiers even as it tries to qualify as a new party,” reads the subhed on-line.

I’d say seeing “social welfare group” in this context means if you have a good rubber club, it’s time to keep it close by.

“Although it is attempting to qualify as a new party in California and other states, the group’s legal designation is that of a nonpolitical, tax-exempt social welfare organization,” writes Matea Gold for the LAT.

“Under that designation, Americans Elect has been able to keep private its financiers, raising questions about what forces are driving the massive undertaking.”

Yeah, sunlight being so bad for grass roots organizations striving to reinvent democracy. On the Internet.

Some names show up.

There is “Pollster Doug Schoen” — a fake Dem only notable for showing up mostly on Fox News. And being frequently described by Glenn Greenwald as “slimy.”

“One of the main financial backers is [CEO] Elliot Ackerman’s father, Peter Ackerman, a private investment executive who made tens of millions of dollars working with junk bond trader Michael Milken in the 1980s,” continues the Times. “At least 11 of the 50 board members work in finance, including Kirk Rostron, who places investments for hedge fund managers and is one of a handful of publicly identified contributors to the group.”

DD visited the website. Here’s the “about” page. Overlooking the staged stuff, children are more honest and direct when explaining what’s up with the homework.

“Kellen Arno, an associate at Carlsbad-based Arno Political Consultants who is running the national field operation, said that in California alone it had employed 1,500 signature gatherers,” reads the Times.

I met one of them at the Pasadena Ralphs. He couldn’t or wouldn’t explain what they were about or even make clear the name of the organization backing him. Canvassing for signatures outside the local supermarket in Pasadena is virtually always the domain of big corporate assholes and/or those looking to set back democracy. Suckers sign up.

The right thing to do is the “talk to the hand” routine unless it’s Girl Scout cookies time. (I got asked for a Pabst once, too, by a homeless man. That was OK.)

Screw Americans elect. I recommend blowing them off the web with a good old-fashioned ddos strike.

Everyone needs another libertarian rich man’s collection of cats paws like they need a puff adder in the bedclothes. One Tea Party is just fine as is.

Operation Annihilate

Posted in Extremism at 11:50 am by George Smith

James K. Galbraith, author of the book — The Predator State — I reread multiple times a couple years ago has a web piece. It speaks about the nihilist mania of those now trying to bring down the US government through a default.

Galbraith makes understanding this intellectual anti-matter — the alleged Constitutional-loving Tea Party/GOP hard at work violating the Constitution which guarantees the US absolutely must not renege on its debts — simple.

A piece from it:

What is going on in Congress at this moment already violates that mandate. It is an effort to subvert the authority of the government to meet and therefore to incur obligations of every possible stripe. It is an attack on the concept of government itself – as the “Tea Party” by its very name would no doubt agree.

It therefore paints those deficit hawks who are using the debt ceiling to take budget hostages as enemies of the United States Constitution.

He explains who are the predators. Naturally, these are the people featured in his book — “resource magnates, media magnates, banking magnates.”

The others are those who become the legion, often featured in this blog as the ammo-gold-and-pemmican crowd.

“Others have blinded themselves to the role government actually plays in sustaining the advanced networks, human protections and social systems that make up our lives, and imagine that one can go back to the world of subsistence farming, church charity and credit from the corner store,” he writes.

Finally, Galbraith serves up some criticism for the phonies abetting all this in the mainstream media. He singles out Howard Kurtz as an example:

Howard Kurtz wrote in optimistic terms of the prospects for a deficit bargain: “But away from the cameras, even sharp-tongued politicians recognize the imperative of avoiding the fate of Greece. It is a sign of the times that the Kabuki players of Washington may take a bow simply for averting catastrophe.”

Kurtz did not say that the big Kabuki here was his own notion that somehow the United States might face the fate of Greece – a small and overmatched member of a currency zone it cannot control. He did not say that the catastrophe he fears – a default on US government obligations – was entirely the product of treacherous politics, abetted by an irresolute President who seems not to grasp the danger of allowing the Constitution to fail.

Galbraith makes it clear the President absolutely must raise the debt ceiling.

The entire thing is here. Go now.

Still in need of lynching

Posted in Decline and Fall at 10:13 am by George Smith


A man’s got to know his limitations…

The kings of finance attempt a dressing down of the US government and Tea Party:

Wall Street’s leading chief executives intervened in the US debt debate on Thursday, writing to President Barack Obama and Congress to warn of “very grave” consequences of a default and urging them to cut a deal “this week”.

Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase were among 14 chief executives of banks and insurers who signed the letter, along with Rob Nichols, the head of the Financial Services Forum, the umbrella association for the biggest financial groups in the US.

Sorry, guy, you still deserve the song.

Let’s Lynch Lloyd Blankfein

The extremist in the weeds, again

Posted in Extremism at 9:21 am by George Smith

From Randy Toman’s LehighValleyConservative blog today, there’s this lede, a rant elliptically about the debt ceiling crisis:

Obama and the Socialist Democrats have brought us into a different era. We are no longer a unified people. We no longer have a government that is for all the people, only the select few, decided by Obama, a community organizer. When he was a community organizer in Chicago, he was for helping blacks only and that was to get votes for Democrats only. There is nothing more divisive then that. It’s class warfare at it’s best! It’s obvious to reasonable people, that he hates the rich and successful. That would include most all of business, large and small. He believes in penalizing instead of rewarding success and he does it by wanting to take from them and give it to the least successful.

A couple of days ago it was impeach the president because he faked his birth certificate stuff.

This is only important in terms of two things. First, as undiluted bigoted poison, a characteristic described yesterday by Hal Crowther at The Populist, referenced here:

The election of a non-white president has brought out the worst in the worst of us. But who guessed that there were so many, or that their worst was so awful?

Second, Randy Toman’s blog isn’t without a social cost. It’s provided a slate for the views of a guy now running for the school board of the Bethlehem School District in Pennsylvania.

And the views and opinions on the blog show the practice of publishing free speech. But it also shows he’s totally unfit for any political position which has influence over the educational environment of children.

However, extremists get elected in the US. It happens when the mainstream press refuses to do its job and the people who vote go into booths blind about the beliefs and values of those whose names are on the ballots.

Take the virtual tour of the small business future military tech shop

Posted in Crazy Weapons at 8:09 am by George Smith

I dumped on the mania of electromagnetic pulse weapons recently.

And the comments section wound up with a link to a southern California business, one that’s been around for years, always claiming wonderful inventions.

Except the inventions never do anything. They’re not really supposed to. It’s just corporate welfare for a nest of electrical engineers.

But the junk sure looks great.

Here’s the company:

SARA, Inc., creates custom solutions to complex problems for the defense and homeland security industry. We specialize in directed or detected wave energy from EMP and ELF to laser light, HPM and sound.

Our technologists harness electromagnetism, plasmas, acoustics, electronics, and processing to build practical applications for force protection, renewable energy …

You’ll have to visit the site to see the pretty pictures.

Here’s what looks like the world’s biggest high power microwave weapon. Actually, it’s only the antenna. The rest of it is — if they actually made it — would be as big as a double-tractor-trailer, which would do nothing interesting, anyway. Those guys do look proud, though.

Here’s more do-nothing devices, fruit of the fad belief about a decade ago that projecting high volume or ear-piercing sound would be a game-changing non-lethal weapon rather than something that just annoys the neighbors.

“Since 1992 SARA has developed and tested high power acoustic devices of all shapes and sizes ranging from sources the size of a pencil to the size of a compact car,” it reads. “The acoustic devices have been powered by bottled air …”

Yeah, well, there was that bit in the second Hulk movie, too. YouTube is also full of examples of this old “science” application, which was never much of a hot sale except in Pittsburgh, where one of them is used to irritate small crowds. (Commonly, these are LRADs, not produced by SARA, but with the same idiotic ideas firmly in place. They’re sold to foreign country and a small number of police departments in the US for use against people who aren’t expected to fight back.)

American innovation at work winning the future.

Where was I?

Back at SARA, there’s the abundant pollution free electricity program.

It sounds good but it’s only a molten hydroxide fuel cell. Not a unique idea, it’s never really caught on. For reasons which are fairly obvious if you think about the chemistry and energetics for a bit.

“Almost 3/4 of our technical staff has advanced degrees in engineering or physics from places like MIT, University of California, University of Illinois, SUNY, Georgia Tech and Stanford, yielding an attractive balance of PhD’s, old codgers and young chargers,” reads SARA’s “about” page. “The company is led by persons with extensive experience and training at upper levels of major defense contractors, including Northrop, Raytheon, TRW and Boeing …”

Proudly doing nothing but wasting taxpayer money in Cypress, CA, since 1989.

Never having to declare victory has its perks

Posted in War On Terror, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 7:20 am by George Smith

Eternal war-footing and willful blindness to what’s happening on the homefront being two of them. The complete handing over to the military of how the US deals with the world and is perceived as a nation being still another.

Maybe Lady Gaga is famous worldwide. But the ubiquity of Predator drones and camouflage uniforms make them much much bigger.

From the warrior caste:

The top commander of U.S. special operations forces said Wednesday that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida is bloodied and “nearing its end,” but he warned the next generation of militants could keep special operations fighting for a decade to come …

But the four-star admiral warned of the fight to come against what he called al-Qaida 2.0

Does al Qaida actually refer to itself now as 1.x going toward 2.0?

Rhetorical. It’s another fatuous American semantic invention from people who think only in terms of devices, be they digital or real world.

A few one line rebuttals for the one-liner claims in the Associated Press piece:

[With] new leaders like American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who Olson said understands America better than Americans understand him.

Doubt it. Yeah, every older American whose been living in Yemen for years understands “America.” Righty-right.

Olson said others like al-Awlaki will probably refine their message to appeal to a wider audience …

Not if Inspire magazine and Adam Gadahn are examples. They’re both jokes.

“This idea of being able to wait over the horizon and spring over and chop off heads doesn’t really work,” he said, describing the “yin and yang” of special operations as including capture-and-kill raids as well as long-term engagement with host countries’ militaries.

Then why is that the entire national thrust? And how has propping up toady country leadership with military aid worked out over the last decade?

The latter involves U.S. troops “developing long-term relationships, learning languages, meeting people, studying histories, learning black markets.”

See above. There’s no evidence buying the locals off through the new Peace Corps works. Arab Spring indicates many are pretty much done with thinking highly of us.

The article notes near the end that the next super-leader of special ops will be Bill McRaven, the overall commander of the bin Laden raid.

And where has the dividend of actually disposing of Osama bin Laden gone?

Here at home there was no dividend except for a couple days of cheering. Then it was business as usual. He might as well not been popped at all.

07.27.11

What Fabian was to rock ‘n’ roll

Posted in Extremism at 11:46 am by George Smith

That’s the sophisticated insult, one among many, written into “Ayn Rand: The Right’s Weirdest Idol of All,” an essay by Hal Crowther at Populist.com here.

Crowther points out that Fabian, among other bad examples, did have an audience once. And it’s part of a personal reflection on Rand and GOP/Tea Party idolatry of her.

Crowther’s description of Rand’s arrival at his boarding school many years ago is spectacularly painful:

Invited to meet with the faculty and student writers at the narrator’s boarding school, Rand arrives with an entourage of chain-smoking idolaters in black and behaves so repellently that her audience of innocents gets a life lesson in what kind of adult to avoid, and to avoid becoming. Rude, dismissive, vain and self-infatuated to the point of obtuseness — she names Atlas Shrugged as the only great American novel — Rand and her hissing chorus in black manage to alienate the entire school, even the rich board member who had admired and invited her.

What strikes Wolff’s narrator most forcefully is her utter lack of charity or empathy, her transparent disgust with everything she views as disfiguring or disabling: a huge wen on the headmaster’s forehead, the narrator’s running head cold, the war injury that emasculated Hemingway’s Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises.

To the boy, she appears to be exactly the sort of merciless egotist who might have designed a fascist philosophy that exalts power and disparages altruism. Rand is wearing a gold pin in the shape of a dollar sign. After meeting her, he can no longer read a word of The Fountainhead, which as an adolescent romantic he had enjoyed.

The description follows a preamble on the current Republican party, made even harder hitting by the current backdrop of of Dem politicians, including the President, scurrying to appease them just so the country won’t be forced into default. (The very latest, New Jersey’s Bob Menendez, cringing on MSNBC whilst making a plea for the GOP to say “yes.” Sniveling is not too strong a word for his behavior.)

Crowther writes:

Is it a death wish or a scheme to kill the rest of us, when “conservatives” fight against clean air laws, or legislate to place a loaded pistol in every yahoo’s holster? I’ve reached the second half of my seventh decade, and I’ve never seen such an intimidating swarm of fanatics and fools marching under one banner. The election of a non-white president has brought out the worst in the worst of us. But who guessed that there were so many, or that their worst was so awful?

“Any political party that pretends to integrate [Christianity and belief in Rand’s ‘wolverine capitalism’ is] a party of liars, and doomed,” he concludes.

But before that happens they’re determined to take everyone else down with them.

Hat tip to Pine View Farm, who finds these things faster than I can.

All The Lazy Bums

Posted in Decline and Fall, Rock 'n' Roll at 10:07 am by George Smith

I can’t put my busking guitar case out on the sidewalk as a tip jar in cyberspace.

Micropayments accepted.





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