Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Koch Brothers One Stop

It's become clear enough that with the Libertarian focus shifting from Defense of John Tyner to the Defense of the Brothers Koch that the Full-Court Press will soon be under way.

Anyone who points out facts and makes a stab at discovering the Truth about the Libertarian Movement and its long time BFFs the Koch Brothers will be aggressively accused of "smearing" Honorable Dissenters and of being "tribalists" mindlessly parroting the talking points of the the In Crowd. This is how it goes. But we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Wait till little curly-headed Rand takes his seat in the August Body, and promptly becomes the vortex around which the Members twirl. Wait till whatever is left of the tattered Liberal Establishment is evicted from the Public Square to be replaced with Koch-funded Libertarians claiming the mantle of Progressives.

The billionaire factions will have their fights; the Plebes -- even the Libertarians -- will be expected to choose their sides and sacrifice and die for the Honor of their Team. And they'll do it, for the most part willingly.

Down in the cellars, the samizdat authors will be madly cranking their mimeographs to make enough fliers to surreptitiously leaflet the neighborhoods with information about what is really going on, and who is Behind It All, They will no longer be able to do it online, of course, because their "facts" and "truths" do not fit the received narrative of the Internets, and they are too easy to track down in any case if they choose to take a public stand against orthodoxy.

Sigh. But it has ever been thus for political activists, ever thus. There is no easy or long open path for the Righteous (watch the Libertarian Cultists' heads explode!) and the Truthful and the Fearless.

And so, with that, let us begin with

The Kochs and Uncle Joe Stalin and the John Birch Society

Continuing: (all episodes are also linked at the top of the page for review at leisure)

The Kochtopus

What Does the Kochtopus Want?

Kochevik "Liberty"

The Kochevik Future -- Part 1

The Kochevik Future -- Part 2, Inverting 1984

The Descent Into Madness

Over at Teh NooYawkuh, Jefferey Toobin gets into some important territory over why we should care about the abortion of Justice that is the Bush v Gore decision that pushed us all into this maelstrom of chaos and madness.

I'm not usually a fan of Toobin's because, like many legal scholars, he can become way too dry and nitpicky, and at the same time fail to clarify his topic either as to its overall import or its affect on our own sweet selves. On the other hand, he is arguably the best of the legal scholar lot when it comes to it. So while I may not be a fan on principle, given the choices available, he's one of the better ones.

That aside, in the New Yorker piece, Toobin sets up and gets into what went wrong, or rather what was wrong, with the Supreme Court's Majority action in Bush v Gore, and he gets into what the legal consequences have been, in the process illuminating some of the direct connections between the judicial activism represented by Bush v Gore, and the current Court's continuing activism under the guise of "conservatism" and "originalism."

And in his considered opinion:

The echoes of Bush v. Gore are clearest when it comes to judicial activism. Judicial conservatism was once principally defined as a philosophy of deference to the democratically elected branches of government. But the signature of the Roberts Court has been its willingness, even its eagerness, to overturn the work of legislatures. Brandishing a novel interpretation of the Second Amendment, the Court has either struck down or raised questions about virtually every state and local gun-control law in the nation. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided earlier this year, the Court gutted the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law in service of a legal theory that contradicts about a century of law at the Court. (Citizens United removed limits on corporate expenditures in political campaigns; the decision is, at its core, a boon for Republicans, just as Bush v. Gore was a decade ago.) When the Obama health-care plan reaches the high court for review, as it surely will, one can expect a similar lack of humility from the purported conservatives.

"A similar lack of humility... "

Indeed. But that is the characteristic of our Government, through and through. It's almost impossible to conceive of how humble, how truly humble, our national government was -- with some very important exceptions -- right through the Clinton years.

And then it changed, it all changed, with the impossibly lawless act of the Supreme Court when it interfered in the election of 2000.

The Government has never recovered from it. My impression is that it cannot.

What happened on December 12, 2000, was a Constitution-shattering event. As ludicrous and theatrical as the Impeachment of President Clinton was, at least it did have a grounding in the Constitution, and Constitutional processes were followed (well, some were invented), and the outcome was an outwardly honorable one. The Nation and the tattered remnants of the Republic could survive the Impeachment.

Not so with the lawless intervention of the Supreme Court into the 2000 election. That broke the contract between the Government and The People, it appears irrevocably.

From then onward, the Government withdrew behind the barricades. No longer did the People matter. And the reason why? Simple: apart from occasional futile outbursts of anger and outrage, the People would do nothing while the Government went about whatever it chose to do.

The Government, its Owners and Stakeholders would make the decisions, and then market them as products to the People. But even if the People weren't buying, they would have no real choice in the matter.

The notion that the TeaBaggers and their sponsors and allies are going to change all that to what it's "supposed" to be is just silly. First of all, they are the bastard offspring of billionaires taking advantage of the vulnerability of very confused and frightened people; and secondly, the TeaBaggers' impulse is to submit to corporatist authority, which of course is the point of the Koch brothers' efforts to control the Government itself.

The nascent imperium that we have as a consequence of Bush v Gore is what the Kochs and their hordes want to seize and operate for their own interests and ends. And they are well on the way to doing so.

They are pushing hard and fast now, and they will brook no opposition. And they are winning.

But this is not the End of America. It is the final nail in the coffin of the Republic. The Government may well become the plaything of the Kochs and their allies and storm troops, but it will never again -- barring revolution -- be humble before the People, never again be more than marginally accountable to the People, and never again be susceptible to the Public Will (again, barring revolution.)

It is a descent into madness. And yet so many people are able to adapt and go on. As if nothing were awry, even many of those who know the truth.

We will survive.


An hour long lecture by Jeffery Toobin in July 2008 that hits on some of this -- eventually.

On the Other Hand

I haven't perused the "news" yet this morning, so there may be other things going on that I might have missed, but I reread the post just previous to this one, and I'm kind of astonished at myself.

I'm "proud" of career State Department personnel?

All in all, the cable dump is "good?"

What's that all about? WTF?

I look at that and I ask, "Who wrote that? Was that me?"

And "What was I thinking?"

(Someone else reading it might thump their chest and assert with confidence that I was doing nothing but expressing my "tribalism" as a former Federal worker. Heh.)

Indeed. As should be obvious, I was more than a little concerned that the latest Doc Dump would prove an utter embarrassment on the world stage. The United States Government would be seen as a completely duplicitous, hypocritical, and deeply craven institution without honor or even the conception of it. What we would see from the cables was that the game that was being played on the table has nothing to do with the game being played below it.

We may still see that, but so far, what's been shown in the cables is that pretty much that everything's been up front, on the table, and thoroughly hashed around, by people who actually do know something of what they are doing. If there is an under-the-table game going on (as I'm sure there must be by some of the more shadowy agencies), it is not the State Department's game, even when the Devil's Daughter was running things from her raven's perch as Assistant Secretary of State for Mideastern Affairs.

That, to me, is a relief.

That doesn't mean I approve of the policies coming out of the DC workshops and palaces. That's a whole nother topic.

If the United States is going to engage in statecraft -- as it must -- I would rather it be done well and competently. It appears that that's the case. And it also appears that policy can change, and the career people at State are able to maintain their professionalism at statecraft no matter how the rules of engagement with the rest of the world shift. These are actually important reassurances that competence has not been completely jettisoned in the panic over The International Terrorist Conspiracy.

What we need now, it seems to me, is a serious and thoroughgoing reevaluation of policy. That was supposed to have been one of the "changes" we would see from the New Regime in DC. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

To put it delicately.

Unfortunately, the major push for policy changes is coming from the Rightists, some of whom are now, it is clear, intent on crashing the whole apparatus. The Revolutionary Spirit we saw from the Right during the Bushevik years has not been dampened at all. The Rightist Revolutionaries got much of what they wanted during the Bushevik reign, but they didn't get it All. That's what they're now after.

And they won't be satisfied until they achieve Ultimate Victory.

Opportunists, mostly of the more Ferengi Branch of Libertaria, are taking advantage of what they see as a Power Vacuum to insert themselves into the fray so as to grab their piece of the pie when it all falls down. The attacks on Old Line Liberals are only going to increase in the short term.

For all intents and purposes, Liberalism is a failed cause. The lights are going out in the Enlightenment one by one, and they aren't going to be re-lit any time soon. At least not in the West.

We're entering a New Dark Age in a sense.

Maybe my focus on the competence of career State Department personnel is misplaced.

When self-doubt enters the picture... ack.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shiny Objects

Strange. Yet again the WikiLeaks Leak is turning into a Shiny Object distraction. This time I really thought there might be some major fireworks, but no. In fact, from reports, Hillary has been working the phones diligently, smiling broadly and cackling her special cackle with presidents, potentates, and princes around the world, saying "Heh! Joke!" and getting away with it.

In fact, what I've read of the cables has actually increased my confidence in the smarts and the merits of the career State Department personnel. They seem to be more on top of their game than the military, but that isn't really fair. The military is dealing with a very different set of circumstances and has a very different mission. One I think needs a serious re-think.

But I'm actually kind of proud of the State Department people.

Isn't that something.

They're saying that, well, because of the leak, people at State are going to be more guarded in their communications with one another. But that's probably horseshit. This information sharing system has been in operation for years, and its vulnerabilities have to have been very well known from the outset. The fact that practically anyone who was read in to the system and had a password could download anything suggests to me that "security" and "confidentiality" were never really matters of particular concern.

Discussing the situation with a close friend this evening -- who has to deal with confidential government communications all the time -- she remarked, "You know there's something about this that sounds very deliberate. Like they wanted this stuff to leak."

I mentioned a Security Breach incident several years ago at a Federal Agency I have some familiarity with (heh) and what the Agency response was. A rather high level employee downloaded some Confidential Information and shared it with the media. This was a major security breach, nearly unprecedented, and the response was swift and sure. [I should make absolutely clear this was NOT a "whistleblowing" incident. The information did not involve any wrongdoing or corruption or criminality. It was information that nevertheless was privileged and was not to be made public, at least not in the form the employee gave it to the media.] The employee was arrested and charged, but beyond that, there was an intensive effort to overhaul security protocols. Downloading of Confidential Information was forbidden almost immediately, and it was made impossible to download it within a week or so. All storage media was confiscated, and any that was found on employees after the prohibition was cause for termination. Security protocols, layers of passwords, restrictions on access, and so on, were repeatedly "enhanced," to the point where it became a real annoyance to have to have anything to do with Confidential or Restricted Information. Communications security was repeatedly "enhanced" as well. The entire process took no more than a few weeks, and all computers and communications within the Agency were affected; there had never been a time when many people within the Agency had full access; now only a very few would have that kind of clearance, and their actions once they accessed secure information would be surveilled.

It was a major security clamp-down, yet apparently the Pentagon has just now gotten around to preventing downloading from its "secure" network. That's simply bullshit.

The network was never secure, and it isn't secure now. It was never, apparently, meant to be, not with three million personnel having the "key" as it were. In the Agency which I was describing above, I would say no more than a few hundred had the kind access the employee who breached security did at the time he did it, and afterwards, no more than a few dozen had that access. At no time did more than a few thousand Agency personnel have even limited access to Confidential Information.

So I do tend to wonder if all of this isn't deliberate, a strategic move by a factional player within the Government. To do what, though?

The upshot seems to be a reinforcement of existing policies. In other words, those who would take issue with the military and international policies of the Government -- specifically by making them even more belligerent -- are finding no support for doing so in the doc dumps.

One thing I noticed about Julian in the interview with CNN that he walked out of was that he is an Imperialist of the Old School. He doesn't really make any bones about it. He's very nearly into White Man's Burden territory when he says "we" can't leave Afghanistan or wherever to fend for itself (you know how primitive these people are) and it is "our" obligation to raise them up. OK. He'd be right at home Out in Burmah, I guess. It's not so much that he is against what the Imperialists are doing, it's that they are doing it wrong.

I agree, they are, but I'd rather they not be doing it at all. Perhaps he would too, but in the meantime, "we" have obligations to meet. His concern for the Natives is that of a possibly unconscious Imperialist assuming they are unable to take care of their own affairs.

I don't want to say that my initial dread at the WikiLeaks Diplomatic Cable release was unwarranted. We still don't know what else will emerge. But I have to say that most of what has come out so far has actually been very good.

And I guess they like Hillary in the embassies and presidential palaces. So she can grin and cackle and the leaders and whatnot overseas can say, "Well, you should see what we say about you!" and they can laugh some more, and that as they say is that.


I'm sure Henry Kissinger has hawked up several hairballs by now.

"This is About Bailing Out the Banks"

Greece. Portugal. Spain. Britain. France. Belgium. Italy. Ireland. The EU monetary union is undergoing extraordinary stress, forcing various member nations into rigid austerity and/or IMF/EU bailout.

In every case, the Banks are paid off -- in full -- and the masses are squeezed to pay off the gambling debts of the High and the Mighty, over and over and over again.

In every single case.

Much the same has been under way in the United States since the Collapse began, only what's going on hasn't been quite as clearly stated or understood here as it has been abroad. The American People are angry and confused, and more and more every day are forced into poverty and suffering, but they generally don't know what or who to be angry at, can't quite figure out who is robbing them, and haven't clearly seen the policies that are driving their impoverishment and suffering.

Overseas, the People know. They know who is robbing them, who is being paid off, and to a surprising degree, they know why.

With very few exceptions now, Governments throughout the world are in complete thrall to the major banking houses. When the bankers say "Jump", every nation, with few exceptions, complies. They are servants of banking masters.

As one nation in Europe after another was gobbled up in the bankers' maw, Americans (as always) tended to follow the lead of the victim blamers. It is ever thus. When it comes to economics, it is always the fault of the one below you, never the one above. Of course Europeans can see that characteristic in Americans and say -- accurately -- that Americans are fools.

There is plenty of information available to Americans, but it has never been coordinated or coherent. American media has certain partisan obsessions that it cannot let go of. American media serves its own class, and surprisingly enough, that would be the Banker Class; American media does not serve the People -- except to propagandize them to "accept the inevitable." Propaganda on behalf of the Ruling Class and managing the expectations of the masses is the primary function of mainstream American media.

Alternatives are found in the alternative media.

While the problem with the Mainstream has been known and criticized and argued for ages -- it's one of the core arguments in American life -- the problem with the Alternatives does not get nearly enough scrutiny.

One of the severe problems that's emerging is the predominance of factional Libertarian cant (their so-called economic and political theory) on the Internets which is having a disastrous effect on perception and action.

Libertarianism is the recipe for mass extinction. Those Libertarians who can actually think, as opposed to those who simply parrot whatever is the Word or the Outrage of the Day, seem to understand the implications of what they advocating, and they seem to be OK with it.

I assume they presume they will survive, no matter what, and even flourish, and without all the Parasites to weigh them down, their Heaven will be nigh.

They will survive, so they think, no matter what happens to the rest of Creation and Mankind, and they will rule, finally, in majesty and splendor. By right.

As public policy makers almost universally follow the wrong path, by concentrating all their efforts on bailing out the banks, forcing more and more of their people into poverty and misery, Libertarians cheer. So long as they themselves do not suffer, or cannot recognize their own suffering, there is nothing to fret about, nothing to fear. As long as it is someone else being squeezed, what's to worry?

The more the banks are bailed out at the expense of the People, the better. The more the diplomatic cables expose the rank deception and hypocrisy of our Governmental Masters, and the more the People learn to loathe them, the better. The more poverty and misery, the better. The worse things are for the many, the better they are for the few.

And so on.

What's happening in Ireland is potentially a turning point for the comprehension of Americans. Of course many Americans have Irish roots, but more to the point, what's going on in Ireland looks like a Mob hit, and there are reasons why it looks that way. Irish society and culture -- as well as its government -- is set up a family and clan (ie: 'tribal') basis, with only a glossy overlay of Anglo-Euro Political Standards and Practices. The Model, in other words, of a standard parliamentary democracy has only a minor purchase in Ireland. Their system works somewhat differently.

And when the Government (which is in its own way a family/clan operation, supposedly on behalf of all the others) succumbs to the directives and orders of an outside agency (the Mob) to fulfill its demands forthwith (robbery, hand over the money), at the expense of everyone else, all hell will break loose -- as it has.

It is assumed that the Irish Government will fall. And it is predicted that the new government will void the IMF/EU extortion, and it is suggested that somewhat like Iceland, Ireland will go its own economic way -- essentially telling the Mob to Fuck Off. Not to put too much emphasis on it, but Iceland seems to have succeeded in getting out from under the burdens of the Financial Cartel.

There has been a tendency in the EU to submit to the robbery and extortion of the financial class, just as there has been in the United States. But if Ireland joins Iceland in resisting and rejecting the Plan, the resistance might spread.

If Americans rise up on their hind legs and say NO! when the New Model Congress begins its Austerity Drive (with the full complicity of the Hooverite White House) we may well see a Global Revolution, at least in how the Banksters are treated.

Yes but the Libertarian opportunists are always lying in wait, aren't they?

Which brings me to a consideration of the widespread defense of the Koch Brothers that came to the fore during the "You Smeared John Tyner!!!!!" controversy. Hmm. So many were willing to support the Kochs openly, something new in the firmament.

Since their efforts ARE the Libertarian Movement, we are quite likely to see some Billionaires fighting one another before too long. With Libertarians siding with the Kochs and the People siding with all the other Billionaires fighting against them.

But first, we must bail out the banks.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Cables -- Now with UPDATE!!!!

Oh Jeebus.

The WikiLeaks Cable Leak has started, and apparently it will continue for... months to come.

Oh Jeebus Christmas.

Ain't we got fun?

Uh. No.

Just the summaries I have read have been enough to make me throw up a little bit in my mouth. I am sick, literally sick at the revelation of this stuff.

It's a completely different response than I had to the earlier WikiLeak doc dumps. Then it was really not such a big deal. The information from military field reports was largely already reported -- if not detailed -- long before the dump, and there was really no reason for the material to be secret in any case. As I said at the time, there was no reason to keep a field report secret in perpetuity; military censorship was sufficient to keep names or whatever out of the public sphere, and once operations were concluded or moved on or whatever, there wasn't any tactical reason to keep the reports secret.

But this is different.

This is very, very dangerous.

Failure to protect diplomatic correspondence is first order failure, and failure to protect this many diplomatic cables is almost unbelievable. It is a potentially catastrophic failure, a globe affecting, world-changing event of unprecedented import.

I don't know that anything too terrible is going to happen, but already the fall out is looking to be severe. Where it could lead is anybody's guess at this point, but as I suggested elsewhere, if you haven't already battened down, it would be wise to do so. Forthwith. This ride is going to get wild.

And I'd also like everyone to keep track of who is celebrating.

Here's how the communications became available to someone like Bradley Manning, according to the Guardian UK:

An embassy dispatch marked SIPDIS is automatically downloaded on to its embassy classified website. From there, it can be accessed not only by anyone in the state department, but also by anyone in the US military who has a security clearance up to the 'Secret' level, a password, and a computer connected to SIPRNet - which astonishingly covers over 3m people. There are several layers of data in here - ranging up to the "SECRET NOFORN" level, which means that they are designed never be shown to non-US citizens. Instead, they are supposed to be read by officials in Washington up to the level of current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The cables are normally drafted by the local ambassador or subordinates. The "Top Secret" and above foreign intelligence documents cannot be accessed from SIPRNet.

This system was instituted after 9/11 so that information could be accessed across agencies, and by the military. This was supposed to make it less likely that information about known terrorists would be closely held.

The system has been refined and updated to the point where all or almost all embassies are now connected and millions of personnel have access to the information.

What a complete clusterfuck.

I understand the need for some information sharing, of course, but the idea that all State Department correspondence below the level of Top Secret should be accessible to anyone with the right clearances and a password (3 million people!) is just absurd. Do the Powers That Be have no idea what the State Department IS, and what it's for?

My doG in Heaven. This was all put in place by the Busheviks (I wonder what DemonSpawn-Liz Baby Dick Cheney had to do with it, given her State Department position under her Dad) and expanded under the Obamanauts, and as I have said, and will say again, this is Governmental malfeasance on a massive, unprecedented scale.

Heads will roll, but whose and under what circumstances remains to be seen.

My queasiness continues.

Milk of Magnesia! Hemlock!

Percussion2! -- Development

Notice the difference between this video of a "Hip-Hop" percussion ensemble and the previous video of a scene from STOMP!

STOMP! presents a very carefully crafted illusion of a spontaneous percussion ensemble performance by a bunch of lay abouts and n'er-do-wells in some alley somewhere using their bodies, the setting, and found objects as their instruments.

The "Hip-Hop" percussion ensemble is is composed of clean-scrubbed young people performing in a bare hangar or warehouse, using standard marching drums and other percussion instruments in a highly organized display of technical and performance virtuosity.

See the difference?

And what do we learn?

Which is more "real?"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Percussion! A Change of Pace

Something from that energetic musical STOMP!

Note from the Nostalgia Front:

When time was, well before STOMP! made it to the boards, every now and then members of most of the theater companies I was involved with would spontaneously form themselves into percussion ensembles of three or five or fifteen drummers/bangers, usually out on the lawn, but sometimes indoors, too. It was a necessary way to relieve stress, for one thing, but it was also a vital means of developing community.

These percussion ensembles would spontaneously form when two people -- not one -- would commence drumming sometimes on their bodies or trees or benches or garbage cans or whatever -- sometimes even drums! -- and others would join in. More and more would find their own complementary rhythms, and sometimes the results could be really-really intricate. It would continue for a few minutes or half an hour, I don't think it would ever last any longer than that, and then the participants and their audience (because there was always an audience) would say YAY! and go on about their business of rehearsing, planning, preparing, fixing, building, or what have you.

I assume that spontaneous percussion ensembles still occur in theater companies, and they have long been a feature of protest marches, rallies, and parades, hippie communes and so forth.

I'm sure there were people thinking of putting this sort of spontaneous percussing together into a Show, even in the long ago, and when STOMP! arose, I was quite delighted. It's a thrill to watch.

Oh but. It's extremely difficult to do, over and over again, making it look spontaneous when it isn't. Not at all. Oh, no. It is very carefully planned, choreographed, rehearsed and refined to death. The performers go into a kind of automatic trance-like state in which they don't really have to think about their actions, but they are still working extremely hard, under immense tension, and a show like this is by its nature a physical and psychic drain. And yet it can energize, too. If you're in the right frame of existence. Which you may or may not be.

I got to thinking about performances like this because of some of the lengthy discussion over at Glenn's Place about the value of individualism, community, "tribalism," libertarianism, "Stalinism"(!), totalitarianism, plethoras of New Hitlers, war and peace, life and death, and everything.

Yes. Well.

The tension between the individual and the group is fundamental to the operations of a theater; it's integral and it is basic. The individual does not exist without the group, and the group needs the individual as a spur -- in a manner of speaking. Theater companies run smoothly when everyone understands and appreciates the fundamental dynamic, and that often requires a strong, visionary leader. An individual, in other words, who sets the pace and the standard and maintains them over time.

It's a deeply ingrained form of social organization.

A spontaneous percussion ensemble operates differently. There can be ad-hoc leaders and individual performers, but who they are in the ensemble changes during the time the ensemble exists. The spontaneous ensemble is an intentionally temporary community of like-minded individuals. It arises and disappears in a few minutes. A theater company is going to continue over a far more extended period, even if it is only to produce and present one production.

Even getting one production opened can require very intense work over a long time -- something that is rarely recognized by those who are not part of the production itself. Creating dozens or hundreds of them is a monumental task.

But it all begins with the dynamic tension between the individual and the group. You can't have one without the other.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Does Anybody Even Know What A Cable Is Anymore?

I'm not sure I recall the last time I got a telegram, but I think it was when my father died. More than 40 years ago. A telegram is not quite the same as a cable, in that the telegram is sent by telegraph and the cablegram is sent by cable, duh, but they used to be very similar, in fact indistinguishable by the recipient. The method of travel, whether over telegraph wires or undersea cable, was the main difference.

Shortly, we are breathlessly informed, WikiLeaks will release up to 3 million diplomatic cables (which I assume are really emails), at least some of which will likely contain messages uncomplimentary of allied governments and personnel. Oh. Dear.

My memory of history may be faulty, but I seem to recall something like this happening a long time ago and the release of uncomplimentary information was a prelude to war. That's all we need.

Apparently, though who can say, the Government has been busy notifying embassies and presidential palaces to be warned of the coming dump and be prepared for some unkind things reported. It sounds like the State Department knows pretty much which cables will be the most troublesome and has made every effort to let the other governments know in advance what was said and by whom.

But still, there is a palpable collective breath-holding while awaiting the release.

"This could be bad." Indeed.

If it is, it will be the first time for a WikiLeaks Leak. And so I won't be surprised if it is, and I won't be surprised if it isn't.

In fact, nothing that WikiLeaks has leaked so far has been of particular world-shaking importance, and despite what Daniel Ellsberg says, the importance of WikiLeaks' Leakage has always been somewhat less than advertised.

Of course that could change.

I was discussing the situation with a close friend, and I mentioned that it seemed very strange to me that such a low level military intelligence grunt would have free access to so much supposedly "secret" information, particularly something as potentially froughtful as diplomatic cables, which shouldn't be in military intelligence files at all. I still wonder how that happened. The ability to protect diplomatic communications has always been a fundamental aspect of government -- for hundreds if not thousands of years. When that communications security is breached, very bad things can happen. And they often do.

Military field reports, for the most part, don't need to be classified, at least not for more than a short time, and with only a few strategic redactions on release. The field reports that WikiLeaks Leaked were standard communications and reports from the field. They were not sensational nor did they reveal "secrets" that weren't already mostly known of at least in outline if not detail. But then, that's the nature of these reports.

Diplomatic cables are something else altogether, and the fact that Bradley Manning, if he's the leaker, had access to any of them at all, let alone to millions of them, is nothing short of a monumental governmental malpractice. This could be very dangerous for all kinds of people.

On the other hand, maybe not. We'll see.

On Living In The (Im)Material World

Blog swarms are a fact of online life. They tend to be nasty things, sometimes with a coherent point, but just as often they are wildly chaotic attacks designed to cause as much harm as possible to the weakest online targets.

There have been many blog swarms in my experience. I don't try to hold on to memories of them, but one that comes to mind was the swarming attack in January of 2006 on Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell, triggered by her clearly uninformed claim that Jack Abramoff had made campaign contributions to both major parties, a factoid you might say that was simply -- and demonstrably -- false.

The blogospheric OUTRAGE!!!!™ was immediate and immense, innundating the Post with hundreds and hundreds of comments and emails, almost all of which denounced The Howell Woman (as I came to call her) in the most virulent and vituperative terms.

The point was made within a few minutes of her first posting on the matter (this was when "blogs" at major newspapers were still pretty new, and comment sections were not necessarily monitored) that she was in error. But she did not respond to her critics the way a blogger would, more or less in real time. She didn't respond to emails. She could not be reached at the Post by phone. The level of OUTRAGE!!!!™ grew exponentially. Other contacts were made at the Post, demanding an immediate response, retraction, correction, apology, whatever. Nothing. The Post was simply ignoring this INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT MATTER THAT HAD TO BE ADDRESSED RIGHT NOW OR ELSE!!!!

As the days dragged on with no response from the Post, the level of vituperation and venom from the Blogswarm continued to increase. Days into The Howell Woman Affair, she emerged from seclusion to make a brief statement in which she claimed she should have said Abramoff 'directed' donations to both parties, which re-triggered the OUTRAGE!!!!™, which in turn led to the shutting off of comments to her column, which led to more OUTRAGE!!!!™. Finally, a week or more into the Controversy, Howell issued her now infamous "Thank you and fuck you" statement in which she repeated her claims that Abramoff was an equal opportunity corrupter and she told her critics to pound sand, she had a "contract" and there was no way she was going to get fired over a simple mistake.


At first, this Blogswarm might have been useful or appropriate, but it became very ugly very fast, essentially becoming the online equivalent of a lynch mob, especially as The Howell Woman did not immediately respond, and when she did respond, it was with an arrogant and contemptuous attitude toward her critics.

I have a propensity to intervene when I sense that incidents like this are turning into mob actions, and so I made some statements in some of the venues where Howell Woman Hate was being stirred up. Of course, that sometimes subjected me to the same sort of vituperation, but you know, I've rarely been goaded by personal attacks. But I found the whole thing very distasteful and said so.

That was then. There have been other more recent Blogswarms, and one of them was engineered (or appeared to be engineered) by Glenn Greenwald the other day in response to what he claimed was a "smear" of John Tyner, the "Don't Touch My Junk" guy from the TSA Uprising Battles.

Mark Ames and Yasha Levine of the eXile wrote an investigative article for The Nation in which they presented some information about Tyner they had gleaned from a profile in his hometown paper, his many television appearances, his blog, and an interview with him. They were, they said, suspicious of the timing and media focus on the TSA Porno-Scan and Sex Assault "uprising" because it looked to them too much like the other faux uprisings that had proliferated since the installation of the Obamas in the White House. They'd previously investigated the "uprising" phenom and had discovered-- and reported on -- an intimate interplay between certain named billionaires, some Libertarian and rightist activists, a concentrated media focus, and various "grassroots-populist movements," particularly the TeaBaggers. They saw the same pattern unfolding again, and they wrote about it.

Because they mentioned Tyner and what they had found out about him -- without accusing him of anything and specifically citing his denial of any funny business -- Glenn launched one of his typical broadside attacks on Ames and Levine, accusing them of "smearing" Tyner, and in the process smearing Ames and Levine.

It was nonsense, but it's what happens with Glenn when he senses an ally needing his "protection." He did the same thing when John Burns wrote about some of the accusations against Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

After reading the article, it was obvious to me that there was no "smear" -- except by Glenn -- and that the purpose of the article was to focus on the Koch financing and ties to so many of the "uprisings" since Obama's advent, and to question the timing and media focus on the TSA "uprising."

I said as much at Glenn's place, but by that time, the Blogswarm was in full swing and the OUTRAGE!!!!™ was unstoppable. The Nation and the authors were hit from all sides running, and in fact have since been taken to task not solely by Glenn and his cheering squad, but by a range of ostensibly professional voices in the field. Jeremy Scahill of The Nation among others.

Of course, after Ames and Levine offered a detailed response in which they stated their inclusion of Tyner in the article should have been clarified and some of the information about him that they included was inappropriate, the Blogswarm, if anything intensified.

They were now "admitting" that they had "smeared" Tyner, an innocent man who meant and did no harm, a Civil Liberties Hero, yaddayadda, and for that there was no forgiveness.

What was striking to me is that most of those among Glenn's commentariat who were attacking Ames and Levine for "smearing" Tyner had not read the article and had no idea what it was about. When it was repeatedly pointed out by me -- and many others, including Cuchulain2007, Publican, 23Skidoo, Milton Wiltmellow and more -- what the article was about, the information was met with a blank stare, or -- in the case of Glenn and other attackers -- with a yawning dismissal or mockery. It was of no concern or interest to those who were so intent on ATTACK!!! It was most intriguingly of no interest to -- and indeed it was subject to ridicule and mockery by Glenn Greenwald himself.

Well. That was interesting. Why would he have no (apparent) interest in what Ames and Levine were focused on and writing about? Why would his entire interest be on defending John Tyner from this Horrible Smear?

I wound up repeating over and over what was in the article itself and suggesting that people actually read it and other works by Ames and Levine that touched on the same topic and others. Some people seemed to do that, but like Glenn, they were entirely focused on defending Tyner the individual, and anything else Ames and Levine had to say was simply irrelevant. Besides, who cared?

This was very interesting. After I read Yasha Levine's investigation into the connections between the Koch fortune and Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union, it hit me. The Kochs, who have essentially created the Libertarian "movement" and continue to finance it handsomely, along with many rightist and libertarian political activities and think tanks and so on, want these two trouble makers to be exiled, if you will, from the mainstream. They want them shut up and shut down, much as they were -- at least partially -- in Russia.

And the Blogswarm attack has been very effective in accomplishing that goal, at least from appearances. It appears to be a case of the "left" eating its own, always a pleasing sight to bloodsoaked rightists and libertarians.

But simply by asking "who benefits?" we realize what is likely going on. The Kochs, who are the moneybags for the Libertarian "movement" and all sorts of other anti-(this)-government "movements" are the ones who benefit. The public is the loser.

As far as I know, this is the first time Ames and Levine have been published in The Nation -- as staid an old line Liberal mainstream magazine as the United States has -- and this incident will probably make it impossible for Ames and Levine to be published there again. Likely they will be denied a mainstream venue in perpetuity. Who benefits? The Kochs do.

This isn't over. But to date, it has been very interesting. To say the least. And it's not a little chilling.

Some sites for more information:








There is much, much more. But this is a start.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Well, that didn't work. Sigh.


The Big Monster Opt Out Protest that was supposed to bring airports from sea to shining sea to a screeching halt -- or at least cause noticeable disruption to the holiday travel season -- was apparently a Big Nothing.

Not even Theatrical.

Well, the guy, "Jimmy", in the video above does take his clothes off in Salt Lake City, and he does parade around, all skinny and semi-naked with a puzzling slogan: "Screw Big Sis" scrawled on his back, he refuses to get dressed when told to by the line TSA "smurf" (I like that term), and we think there might be a stand off until the TSA supervisor "smurf" arrives, says "go ahead" when the Opt Out Protester "Jimmy" says he wants to go through the metal detector in his swim suit (Metal detector! not Porno-Scanner!) and that, as they say, is that.

There's a little sequence near the end where it is explained that the supervisor "smurf" told his line person that it was OK for "Jimmy" to go through the metal detector in his swimsuit, "to each his own," and that when "Jimmy" explained that he was making a political statement, the supervisor "smurf" said, "Oh, as long as it's for a political statement then it's fine."

And this is how you defuse a political action/protest.

As far as I have been able to find out -- and I admit to no exhaustive search -- this was nearly all there was, Monster Opt Out Protest-wise. There were a couple of guys handing out "Know your rights" flyers at O'Hare, and I think I saw something about an incident at Miami, but apart from that, there was essentially nothing.

This may be due in part to the possibility that the Porno-Scanners were turned off for the day, something I predicted would happen, so there was nothing for Protesters to "opt out" of. I'm not sure of the source, however. I believe it was in a post that referred to something Lew Rockwell had posted, so take it for what it's worth.

It's too bad, really. I would much prefer this issue be resolved through massive public pressure than by awaiting the Pleasure of the Roberts Court to rule on the fundamental law and precedent that underlies the passenger processing procedures and control-herding at airport checkpoints.

Public pressure to date has worked surprisingly well to force changes in the New Procedures in rapid time for a government agency. Certain categories of travelers have already been exempted from the more extreme aspects of the New Procedures, and one can imagine that more exemptions are forthcoming. TSA public contact personnel is being rapidly retrained in how to perform personal pat-downs so as not to alarm or offend passengers, and the use of the Porno-Scanners is being limited. If they were actually turned off yesterday, then it was a brilliant move. Their usefulness is potential, not actual, and as passenger processing proceeded just fine (well...) without them for many years, it is clearly possible to cancel their use for a day if it will speed processing while not compromising security.

That's just obvious.

My sense is TSA will not revert to the previous application of the New Procedures; there will be no more routine Porno-Scan screenings, no more invasive/hostile pat-downs. No more treating passengers as criminal suspects.

This is really basic stuff, but it has to be learned. It isn't automatic.

Here's the thing: the TSA is still a brand-new agency in the Federal Government; there are no career paths within it, and turnover at the top has been frightful. The chaos in the leadership of the agency is reflected in the chaotic nature of what goes on on the processing line. It's not all due to bad intent by any means. It is due to a very new and still highly dysfunctional Federal agency trying to find its footing within the government while simultaneously processing tens of millions of passengers day in and day out with an ever-changing focus and a still somewhat vague or impossible mission.

Add to that the corruption endemic to the security machine industry, the constant thwarting of regularization and the attacks from parts of the political sector, and the constant carping from some Libertarian activists, and it's a wonder the agency has been able to function as well as it has for as long as it has.

Still, there are very fundamental issues of passenger control-herding and invasive (and often foolish) search and seizure routines that must be resolved. As I say, these things should not be the sole purview of the Courts. Our courts are so corrupt as it is, leaving it to them to sort this mess out will simply make it worse.

It needs to be done through massive public pressure that has the result of making traveling at the very least endurable, and more generally enjoyable. It is not solely a matter of fixing the outrages that may occur at the security gates. The airlines themselves need some serious work, too. Very few airlines seem to have the knack of handling passengers with dignity and respect in the first place, and airplanes themselves have become little more than cramped and alarming sausage tubes.

The whole industry needs a re-vamp, top to bottom. And how likely is that?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Security Theater Day!!!! YAY!!!!


[I coulda put up Merman, but it wasn't quite the same after all these years, and then there was a wonderful John Barrowman clip that inadvertently got into the Nudo-O-Scan Thing, but it was way too Gay, so we'll have to go with Patti at the Tonys -- as if that weren't. Ha!]

Yes, well. Theater. doG, I love The Show Business.

I've been strangely nostalgic the last few days. Nostalgic about some of my earliest times in the Thea-tah, as it were, and I found something online about a Grand Reunion of some of the Old Farts I worked with when we were all just Kids Putting on a Show in the Barn.


The Reunion happened this summer. I had no idea, nor in fact, did some of the others who were involved with that theater company who I've stayed in touch with over the years. Ultimately something like 300 souls attended. We weren't even invited. I'm not at all miffed about it, though. I'm more intrigued than anything else. The event apparently came to be called "Summer of Healing, Summer of Love." And I'm bewildered and even a little stunned by that title. What... is... that... all... about? "Healing?" "Love?"

The copy that goes with the pictures of the Reunion is singularly uninformative; it's more of a Castle In the Air type of elegy (and surprise that not everybody is dead yet) than an actual description of who was there, what they've been doing, yadda, yadda, and where they are now.

I know what some of them have been up to. If you go back far enough and trace things forward, it's quite a company, perhaps of fools to be sure, but there are plenty many Tony-winners (and nominees, oh, poor Harry, you was robbed again!), Oscar winners (and nominees, here we go again), TV personalities, movie Stahs, comedy circuit performers, and on and on. It was all based on the West Coast, of course, and back in the day, there was a very strong Texas accent to the operations, through connections with the University of Texas, but ultimately it boiled down to a lot of ordinary kids with some kind of talent, putting on shows -- lots of them -- for a very appreciative audience. Some of those kids went on to make their marks in the movies, on teevee or on Broadway and regional theater stages, but a lot didn't. Some are producers, directors, authors, and whatnot, but there are plenty of carpenters and salesmen and lawyers in the mix, too.

I brought a few skills to that experience, but I learned many more, and I will never forget it -- nor will I forget some of the key people who were part of it.

And there I was staring at the pictures of the Reunion, and with a few exceptions, I was saying, over and over, "Who the hell is this?" Just as I'm sure many of those who were there were wondering, sotto voce of course.

Still, it's nice to see that not everybody from those days is dead yet.

That said, one of the key understandings I got out of that experience in the long ago was some sense of the nature of theater itself, and why it was such a key element in Ancient Greek civilization and why it became a key in so many civilizations to come.

The fact that Theater as an Art Form has been in such decline for many years in this country is intriguing, too.

As Theatricality becomes ever more pervasive, the Theater itself goes into sharp decline.

This seems to be a universal truth. As Theatricality spreads, Theater declines.

Which brings us to Today's Security Theater Event, in which numerous passengers are planning on Theatrical Action to disrupt the Theatrical Presentations of Security brought to us by the TSA.

Passengers who don't want to be Porno-Scanned or Groped to get on their flights will appear at the airports in kilts commando, they say (sure they will), or disrobe at the gate, or demand to see a supervisor before they are assaulted and molested, or they will be hauled away by the Authorities, or... well, you get the picture. And the Officers of Airport Security will snap their gloves, and they will yell, and some of them will laugh, and the Domestic Herd will be processed almost as usual, despite all the florid threats to shut down the gates if the passenger-herd acts up in any way.

Theater. It's all a Show.

During the Controversy (Teach the Controversy!!!!), there has been an astonishing amount of grift and hucksterism, very obvious to those who are alert to these things. The whole thing is being played, by all concerned, from the many Libertarian opportunists at the bottom of it all undertaking disruptive "actions" of one sort or another, to the media impresarios who see a profit potential, to the government agents scrambling to catch up.

It's supposedly "all about the Constitution."

Fuck that. No, it isn't. If only it were. But then, if it were, it would be very different. The airports would have been shut down long ago, and the People would have said... "No." They wouldn't put up with this TSA crap, even if it meant the airlines would go extinct. If the Constitution were so very important, it never would have gotten to this point.

But it's not about the Constitution, it's about attention. "Attention must be paid!" Attention must be paid to such a person! He must not be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog... Et cetera. It's a line from "Death of a Salesman" that shreds complacency at What Is. And that's what this protest today is ultimately all about.

Stop and think about what you are submitting to and think about what you have become. Pay attention.

That's the message of the Theater, from its origins in the mists of the past to today. And today, the Theater ain't what it used to be, and Theatricality is everywhere. Pay attention.

Not to the Show so much, but to What Is. The Show is only there to help you See.

Pay attention.

[Here's Mitzi! What a sweetheart... Jeebus, until I saw this, I had almost forgotten about the summer that included turns by Mitzi, Lena, and Debbie. Those were the days...]

Monday, November 22, 2010

What Happened in Big D -- Forty Seven Years Later

It's hard to explain that everything changed that afternoon just before Thanksgiving forty-seven years ago. The world would not be, could not be, the same again. In some ways, what happened in Dallas 47 years ago knocked the world off its axis, and it has been spinning wildly ever since.

Of course, the video above only relates to this post and what happened 47 years ago because of "Dallas" -- Big D, Little A Double L A. Those who know American musicals know that the song is from Frank Loesser's "Most Happy Fella," which takes place in the Napa Valley of California, not all that far from where I am typing this post. I've only been involved in one production of "Fella" -- not the one in the video, but it was one that felt very much like it. It was 10 years after the events in Dallas. I remember the set designer (who was barely out of UT -- ie: University of Texas, Austin) was so captivated with the notion of recreating vinyards in the Napa Valley onstage he came up with a means of producing the intermittent glow of fireflies in the air all over the stage during twilight scenes. Some of us -- like me -- took him aside and said, "Um, Bob. You know there are no fireflies in California?" He didn't. No. "But isn't it a wonderful effect?" he asked with this huge smile and twinkling eyes. Well, yes. Yes it was. It was lovely. But it wasn't Napa. "Don't you think we can get away with it? Willing suspension of disbelief?" I and others thought we should try it and see what happened. Sure enough, the audience loved it. Despite the ostensible setting of the play in the Napa Valley, where there are no fireflies, I don't think anybody in the audience even considered the factual discrepancy. Nor did they fret over how it seemed that nobody connected with the book had actually ever been there. So what? It was a delightful semi-opera, performed with extraordinary vigor by a young and enthusiastic cast, on a beautiful set, so who cared, really?

True story.

And somehow we do get back to what happened in Dallas that awful afternoon 47 years ago when the world changed forever.

I was in high school when the announcement came over the loudspeaker that the President had been shot. Some time later, the announcement came that he had apparently died of his wounds in Dallas and we would be sent home for the day. It was all a complete shock to the students and teachers. We could not imagine in our wildest fantasies that such a thing could happen. This is why I say the world was knocked off its axis. Most of the faculty had been around when Roosevelt had died in office -- my chemistry teacher had been in an internment camp, for heaven's sake.

But this was different, entirely different. It was as if a thunderbolt had come from the Heavens and struck down President Kennedy just in his prime. Roosevelt was old and frail in 1945, and the War was almost over. Kennedy had survived some nasty scrapes and even the Cuban Missile Crisis, and was gearing up for more challenges to come. Struck down suddenly by a murder most foul. The concept of it was unbelievable.

And then to witness the assassination of his assassin live on the television tube... no. This was not even supposed to be real in fiction.

From that moment on, nothing would be the same again.

Rebellion would be the watchword of the next decade. Distrust. Disaster. Despair. Bloody violence. And yet, despite events, the Fear that had enforced conformity during the 50's and the early 60's was absent. Who was afraid of anything any more?

Keep in mind, Kennedy's death led to the advent of Lyndon Johnson in the White House -- a very strange situation for most of us. Johnson was driven from office by the revolt against his escalation of the Vietnam War, a crazy undertaking that seemed more about proving the size of his dick than anything else. He was replaced by Nixon -- who was also driven from office, in part for continuing, intensifying, and then losing the Vietnam War. And Ford? Who even remembers him? He was proof that presidents could be appointed, and nobody would blink an eye. He presided over the American evacuation of Saigon, a spectacle that no one who witnessed it can ever forget.

Carter, Blessed Jimmy Carter, so intent on doing the Right thing, got hoist by his own petard when the Tehran embassy was seized by Iranian revolutionaries and American hostages were held there through the rest of his reign.

Reagan. Save us all. After suffering one disastrous presidency after another, Reagan promised Morning In American and the People bought it. Those who tried to warn them -- like the Californians who had already experienced Reaganism -- were shushed and shunted to the sidelines. Reaganism ruled.

It was slick but amateurish, filled with corruption and suffering, but so what?

And the attempt on Reagan's life did not succeed.

Nevertheless, shenanigans under the Reagan presidency were outrageous and obvious, and the man himself was at best a shell.

George the Old? The less said the better. And no, I don't know -- at this point don't much care -- if he had anything to do with the events in Dallas on Nov 22, 1963. The theories of what was really going on are interesting, but we are not going to be privy to a definitive answer any time soon. It's like life on Mars. Maybe. Maybe not.

Clinton came next, and that didn't turn out well.

George the Lesser ruled over a blood-soaked criminal conspiracy.

And Obama was sent to the White House as a form of Redemption. For all of it. All the sin and error of the past, all the suffering of the future. That's what was in so many people's minds.

There was a similar sensation around the advent of John F. Kennedy, another President who could not be President -- because he was Catholic.

So many of us wonder if we are about to go through a similar situation with Obama. Will the earth be knocked off its axis again? I think we're very close.

And who knows, fireflies may show up in the Napa Valley.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On the Revolution -- Hmmm.

I wasn't in Seattle for the Battle of '99, but I was there for Anniversary Protests, and the fact is that it was... disheartening. The police behaved like Authoritarian Pigs for no reason at all -- except to assert their Authority over the People in the Streets. There was no violence, except that initiated by the police, and they did so primarily, it seemed, to make a point. THEY were in charge.

Not the scruffy Leftists, Anarchists, and Homeless Wanderers.

I wandered around Downtown Seattle before, during and after the Anniversary Protests, and talked to quite a few people about what was going on. Many were just weary of the whole thing. Merchants were absolutely livid that it (The Battle of Seattle) was happening again -- even though it wasn't, not by any stretch of the imagination. Yet they were so frightened that it would. The stark fear in their voices and on their faces -- over something that wasn't actually taking place -- was difficult for me to deal with.

Protesters themselves knew what they were about and why they were there: to make a statement that the People will not be denied, no matter how long it takes, and no matter what suffering they must endure. The Man will not win in the End. And they had no animosity toward the merchants who were so afraid of them. Especially at Westlake, they knew how badly the small-time merchants there were being exploited by the Corporate class. Even the merchants knew, but they could not fathom... protest.

Late at night, the police went on a rampage, gassing, rounding up, and beating hundreds of peaceful protesters. It was a rout. I didn't personally witness that aktion. But I saw it on the teevee news.

It was... horrible.

And yet, taking the risk and making the sacrifice is necessary.

Video scarfed from a "diary" at dKos. The "diary" -- I hate that term for stories and articles and statements written by dKos users -- itself is worth a glance as well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TSA Enhanced Screening Procedures Explained

Here ya go:

Filched from FDL, and Dday has a decent update on the issues involved.

[NB: I kind of doubt I'll be taking the plane any time soon again, at least not voluntarily. There was a time I was flying two or three times a month, but those days are past, and I doubt they'll come back. When I have to go somewhere, I think I'll drive.]

[Another Note: The only real problem I see with all the coverage that this matter is getting is that the "Don't Touch My Junk" guy and his complaint is getting morphed into the "Don't Tase Me Bro" guy and his issue, thus making it all a joke. Ha ha.]

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

According to Ackerman...

This must be a first. I'm actually referring to and linking to a post by Spencer Ackerman over at FDL. Hm. I'm sure Spencer is always very well informed and astute but I have never been able to make head nor tails of much of what he writes for them. Does anyone have a decoder ring?

This post is (apparently) about the likelihood that the New Model Congress assembling in January will "revisit" the AUMF under which Our Glorious Imperial Project is being prosecuted.

Well, isn't that special?

In fact, the 2001 AUMF has little or nothing to do with the current Imperial Project under way and any close reading of it (or even a superficial glance thereat) shows that continuing to use it for the purpose of violently stamping out any resistance or opposition to American Imperial Overlordship is less than satisfactory.

That's what the Imperial Project is about at its base, destroying resistance/opposition to Our Glory. That's the Mission they keep yabbering about. That's the Job that's never "finished."

"We must Finish the Job, we must Complete the Mission," quoth the Generals and their civilian flacks, and even quoth the troops, but neither Mission nor Job is ever clearly specified. Just what is it they are Over There to DO exactly? And all we can tell from what transpires is that they are there to liquidate Natives who resist the imposition of Glory from Above, Glory imposed directly or through local puppets and surrogates. That is all.

It has nothing to do with the Designated Enemy -- AQ-Wherever or Whatever -- any more than the Indochina Wars of my day had anything to do with the Dreaded Commonists (as they were known). It has to do with resistance to Overlordship. Resistance must cease. Period. Full Stop.

So Spencer, apparently (though I haven't quite decoded his post), believes the AUMF under which the Imperial Project is being pursued will be replaced by some other, more specific, measure that better spells out both the scope of the "war" under way and the status and treatment of the captives thereof. In other words, those already captured who cannot be tried either because they would say something embarrassing or because they are acknowledged to have been tortured for "information." That is to say, false confessions. One can assume that unless further false confessions are necessary, any future captives will simply be... disposed of.

What's kind of interesting about this is that there is apparently no consideration of removing the Powers and Authorities granted the Imperial Presidency under Bush and now continued under Obama. No, just clarifying and updating them somewhat and perhaps extending them "forever". Nor has there been the slightest fretting on the right that His Serenity might be misusing other Authorities and Powers such as domestic spying that the Civil Libertarians have been up in arms about since Bush.

In other words, despite all the kabuki over Obama's "socialism" and whatnot, when it comes to the Domestic National Security State and the Imperial Project Overseas, this Obama fellow seems to be just fine in the eyes of the Right and the Owners.

Just. Fine.

Ponder that for a while.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Le Roi -- il se est vivant!

[I've never been very good with reflexives... sigh.]

Over the years, those of us of a more rebellious bent have often alluded to the tumbrils and guillotines, the French Revolution, and the end of the Ancien Régime in our many unsuccessful attempts to rouse the rabble to La Révolution Maintenant! And of course Americans continue to sit on their hands, stare blankly at their flat screens and munch contentedly on their take and bakes or their bowls of hot butter-flavor microwavable popcorn.

The movement to Revolt seems to get nowhere.

Blaming it on the People is standard practice. They are Too Lazy and Too Ignorant to get off their ample duffs and DO anything about the Monstrous OUTRAGE!!!!™ that is our daily lot.

Meanwhile, life for ordinary Americans continues to deteriorate at an alarming clip, the seas continue to rise, and Our Rulers continue to ignore the People while serving their corporate masters slavishly.

Of course there are signs of incipient revolt everywhere, from the rabid rightists sucked into the TeaBagger movement to the impending revolt of air travelers over the invasions of personal space and privacy now standard with the TSA.

We can see that even The Powers That Be are engaged in a revolt of sorts in their refusal to have their taxes raised to fund the Government, indeed their refusal to pay taxes at all.

That last, of course, is the key to the parallels between the econo-political situation in America today and that of France during the reign of Louis XV, not Louis XVI. Of course the parallel isn't exact; these things never are.

But we shouldn't be blind to the similarities.

France's empire had reached a zenith during the previous reign. Louis XV -- great grandson of his predecessor Louis XIV, le Roi Soleil -- ascended the throne in 1715 at the age of five and he reigned for the nearly the next 60 years. He ruled for almost 50 of those years and for at least 30 of them, he was fully in charge of the government of France and its Empire, although it would be wrong to say he was an absolute monarch.

Louis XV's reign seemed full of hope and promise, but it ended as a huge disappointment. Louis is said to have been irresolute, dissipated, and irresponsible, and yet from some points of view he was anything but.

What you can say about him is that he tried and largely failed to reverse the slide of la Belle France into the economic and political turmoil and chaos that would lead to the French Revolution some 15 years after his death.

His reign was the predicate.

He did what he thought he could. It wasn't enough. He couldn't do more, at least in some respects, because France's political and governmental institutions were too rotten and too corrupt to cope with the needs of the nation and its people. There was no way to go forward without overturning the whole system, a Revolution that would come in due time, but one that could not be pressed before its time.

When the institutions of the State don't work, there's not a lot you can do to correct matters that have gone awry. That was the case with France under Louis XV. Yet life could go on, apparently as usual. Active rebellion from Below was all but inconceivable; such rebellion as there was during the reign of Louis XV was at the top, not at the bottom of French society, and it was a rebellion of the Church and the Aristocracy against paying taxes to fund the Government.

To me, it's obvious how that relates to our situation today and for long years since. Our own Corporotocracy refuses to pay taxes sufficient to keep the Government from gross insolvency, and has essentially declared that any enhanced government revenues must come solely from the Little People, those of Lesser Means.

Wars must continue unabated, fully funded. Subsidies for the rich and well-connected must be maintained. Programs for the benefit of the poor and middle classes must be eliminated or "scaled back."

This is the American equivalent of France's Rebellion of the Rich under Louis XV. The People's complaints were being "heard" in the Parlement of France, a very fractious and polarized body, but the upshot was that the economic burden on the People was increased rather than mitigated.

All the time, Louis was trying to find some way through all the aristocratic bullshit, but he could not imagine doing anything outside the Institutional Norms of his day, and as the institutions could not encompass anything outside those norms, his efforts failed.

The People of France knew full well what was going on, but they didn't know what to do about it. Nothing they tried seemed to work, but then there was little imagination in their efforts to remedy their deteriorating situation. This lack of imagination was mirrored by their Betters who simply used the economic and financial crises of Louis' reign to enhance their own position while the People starved.

After years of rhetorical animosity toward the King in the Parlement, in 1757 a man named Damiens decided to take matters into his own hands one evening at Versailles* and stabbed the King as he was about to enter his carriage and canter off to his petit palais, Le Trianon, in the Gardens.

Of course this act of lèse-majesté was shocking (!!) to the People of France, and Damiens paid with his life in a very grotesque -- but apparently highly entertaining -- public torture and execution in Paris anon.

The King, it is said, was disconsolate at the whole affair and resolved to change his ways forthwith. Good luck with that. In fact despite Louis' reform objectives, nothing got better. And despite the entertainment value of brutal public executions, the People were not amused with the course of events.

They simply did not know what to do, and they would not come to the understanding that they could do something about their plight until they witnessed the example of the American Revolution across the seas.

THAT was the catalyst for the French Revolution -- and many other revolutions to come.

Ordinary Americans will not be able to remedy their own plight without a catalyzing event that shows them the way. I used to think that would be the uprisings in Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and eventually the Soviet Union itself. But as those events fade into the mists of time, I'm not so sure Americans even remember them, let alone see them as catalysts.

At the moment, then, perhaps there isn't a contemporary example of "what to do." But one will come in time. No doubt...

[NB: Isn't it astonishing that literally anyone and everyone had access to the Palace at Versailles during the reigns of the Bourbons? It was quite possible for individuals of any -- or no -- estate to approach and petition the King or his ministers as they perambulated around the chateau, and the idea of preventing the People from doing so was inconceivable. The absurd levels of Security -- and the Security Theater -- behind which our own government operates would be considered unmanly and insane by the monarchs of yore.]

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Binary Dangers

In astronomy, stellar binaries are as common as dirt; they are pretty much the standard organization of star systems. Unlike our own Solar System, most systems have multiple stars.

The contact binary, as illustrated above, is rather rare, and where they do occur, there are usually fireworks aplenty. As you can see from the illustration above, the stars in a contact binary system pass material between them, and the star which is accreting the most material will experience periodic explosive events called "novae."


The other day, the Catfood Commission co-chairs put out a Power Point exhibit (which, for some reason, is called a "report of recommendations") on how to tame the growing deficit. Their recommendations were to cut the Federal budget substantially and increase revenues slightly. Oh, and they recommended making relatively slight but nonetheless annoying reductions to Social Security, as well as mostly unspecified changes to cut costs of Medicare and Medicaid. The only thing they would specify was raising costs to users of any/all health-care programs.

They recommend that almost all the costs of reducing the deficit be borne by the working and middle classes through various entitlement and program cuts, while the upper classes receive a slight haircut by folding capital gains and dividends into their ordinary incomes -- while at the same time significantly reducing upper income tax rates (claiming to close loopholes, too, though, so that revenues from that sector at least aren't reduced.)

The blast faxes went out immediately. Marshall the troops! Oppose this piece of shit or die!!!!!!


What's really interesting about this roll out is that despite the fact that it was a "complete surprise" to the media and the commissioners, the propaganda was all ready, and it was put into immediate heavy rotation: this is a wise and prudent plan to attack the deficit problem and it is incumbent upon Congress to pass it without delay, and for Americans to back it wholeheartedly. Shared Sacrifice, people.

Come on People now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try and love one another right now...

It was universal in the media, everywhere, as if the CoChairs' PowerPoint was the Plan, and all Good Patriots had to back it.

Those who said No, no, no! a la Amy Winehouse, were spoilsports at best, treasonous leftists no doubt. Ew, Nancy Pelosi, for example, her and all her San Francisco airs. Harrumph.

The only real financial and economic pressure -- or as they say "Sacrifice" -- is on the middle and working classes and the poor who are being expected to carry most of the burden of the financial collapse, the endless wars, and the interminable recession on their groaning backs. This is to be accomplished primarily by broadening the income tax base, eliminating deductions and/or reducing programs and services for the less-advantaged, and applying cuts to Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.

This will have the effect of significantly lowering the standard of living of the poor especially, but also of the working and middle classes. The rich may or may not experience a slight bump up in taxes and/or reduction in programs and services, as their tax rates will be lowered but their income subject to the lower rate will be expanded.

The worst thing about it is not the proposals themselves, but the complete failure of the so-called Progressives to have any alternative proposals ready to go. It's as if they only thing they know how to do is react; they have ceased being an activist movement.

The danger of binary thinking here is that the choice is only between the Catfood Commission's co-chair proposals or nothing.

Well, you get what you pay for.

On another plane, when you have a spare 10 minutes, here is an outstanding astronomical animation submitted for your approval:

The guy who did this has a whole bunch of them. Ché says check it out:


Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Taking Over the World

Most assuredly.

[NB: Back in the Bad Old Days, I would often equate Newt Gingrich's ravings and plots with those of The Brain, and his rotating cast of sidekicks with Pinky. Now that Gingrich's star has been eclipsed, we have a New Model Brain. Read on...]

Over at Salon.com, Emma Mustich has put together a consideration of Glenn Beck's ravings over the Soros Plan To Take Over The World that attempts to mirror the facts of Beck's own actions and suggests the doughy little munchkin may be... how do you say... projecting.


Actually, the 5 Step Plan Beck is promoting as the Soros Scheme is pretty much how any activist movement that's serious about "Change" has to proceed if they are going to successfully overturn -- and replace -- an entrenched Establishment.

You will note as I go through the list that these are things that American "Leftists", especially on the Internets, absolutely will not do. Which really tells you all you need to know about how serious they are about real change.

  • Form a Shadow Government

    This is so utterly basic, and yet it is not even considered by the putative Left of the Internet libertarian spectrum. The point of having a Shadow Government is to be able to authoritatively assert alternative policies while undermining the Establishment, and to have a substitute government ready to roll as it were when the Rotting Old Establishment collapses. But no such thing is happening on the Left; it is always the purview of the Right. There is a fairly obvious reason why: The so-called Left is or wants to be part of The (existing) Establishment. Oh noes.

  • Control the Airwaves

    Or at least some of them. Again, this is not done at all, or is done only on the margins, by the Activist Left, particularly that part of it that is well-known on the Internets. What they try to do instead is worm their way onto the Established Talking Heads programs, and thus achieve credibility within the Establishment. The efforts on the Left (so-called) to capture any significant portion of the AM radio airwaves and cable television have been a failure for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that so-called Leftist funding sources (where are you, My George Soros??!!) refuse to back them with anything like the kind of financial support they require -- Rupert Murdoch has dumped billions into his right wing media empire, for example, much as Sun Myoung Moon has done -- and of course personality clashes within the failed Leftist Media are legendary. But then, why try to set up a media plex to compete with the Murdochs and others on the Right when it's so much easier (or at least appears to be) to work you way onto a seat at the Big Table the Establishment already provides?

  • Destabilize the State by compromising the economy.

    This is a big-boy effort that you don't want to play around with unless you are prepared to do it and are prepared for the consequences, but it is something Leftist Activists won't even consider. They don't want a destabilized State, for one thing. If anything, they're desperate for stability, not more destabilization -- which has long been a trait of the Rightist authoritarians. The Activist Left (on the Internets) would be calling for General Strikes and No-Pay Days all the time if they had any interest in "destabilization." Instead, they typically advise against any sort of effective destabilization action (even street protest), advising their audience to use their energy to back candidates for office and to vote. Which we know is effective on behalf of the Establishment. QED.

  • Provoke an Election Crisis

    Again, this is something -- ie: the provocation -- Internet Leftists simply will not do. Instead, they are almost completely absorbed with electing their Great Man (or Woman as the case may be) to office, by the rules, and gracefully conceding when they lose. The Election process is sacrosanct to them, much as the Constitution is often seen as Holy Writ. They cannot conceive of provoking an election crisis (as for example the Busheviks infamously did). Again, this is not something you want to do unless you are prepared to do it and prepared for the consequences (as the Busheviks clearly were). But it is one very effective way to achieve Change objectives -- if that's what you really want, and I would suggest that the disinterest on the Internet Left in using effective techniques like this is yet another sign that they aren't interested in Change except as a rhetorical device. What they want is stability, the status quo, and to be accepted and respected by the Establishment many of them pretend to loathe and despise.

  • Finally:

  • Stage massive demonstrations.

    Ha! Internet Leftists will not do that; nothing gets them crabbier than seeing People in the Streets for any reason. Nothing terrifies them more than Giant Puppets on Parade. They reflexively denounce and despise "demonstrations" and condemn them as useless feel-good exercises or mob actions. And yet, Massive Demonstrations are part of how you effectively achieve Change. Cf: the Fall of the Soviet Empire, indeed, the fall of the Soviet Union itself. Just as examples. You've got to get off your duff and go bang on some pots and pans, block the streets, and take some physical risks. But Internet Leftists absolutely will not do that. They will reflexively denounce even a rally like that of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They can't help themselves. They hate demonstrations.

  • All this is to say that there specific things that can be done by organized interests to effectively Change the System. Glenn Beck accuses arch-Leftist-Devil and Self-Hating-Jew George Soros of trying to engineer some sort of Leftist coup, and he cites all these nefarious things Soros is doing to achieve his goal of World Domination. Only he's not doing those things nor are his minions. If only they were! But no.

    The only people doing these things are the only ones who really want significant, systemic Change: the Rightists aligned with Beck and his sponsors.

    Funny how that works.

    Not funny ha-ha.