Tag Archives: Military

Scenes from America

20 Aug

In Ferguson, Missouri, a police officer shot and killed an unarmed Black teenager. The shots were not at close range, indicating no immediate struggle, and there were at least six shots fired. Setting aside the subsequent character assassination of the victim, the police response to popular outrage and demonstrations has been militaristic in nature, and overflowing with issues of race and class in contemporary America. 

No one condones looting or violence, but the ridiculously overwrought police response has quashed the people’s right to demonstrate. 

Hysterical right wing commentators have overwhelmingly sided with the police officer who shot Michael Brown, labeling the dead kid a “thug” who clearly deserved to die. Of course, we still don’t have a copy of the police report surrounding the shooting incident. The people in Ferguson are outraged by the latest homicide of an unarmed Black teenager under questionable circumstances, and their demonstrations have been met with this: 

Some months back, there was a standoff in Nevada over Cliven Bundy and his cows. Back in 1993, Bundy didn’t like a change in policy at the Bureau of Land Management, so he refused to renew his license to permit his cattle to graze on public land. In 1998, a federal court barred Bundy from letting his cattle graze on the “Bunkerville Allotment”. In July 2013, a federal judge further ordered Bundy off of additional lands

It should be noted that, in both court cases, Bundy had an opportunity to be heard, and exercised it.

In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management undertook action to forcibly remove Bundy’s cattle from federal lands pursuant to the court orders. Hundreds of armed, right-wing, so-called “militia” came to Bundy’s aid in the Nevada brush, and the rancher became a right-wing, anti-Obama cause celebre. 

American fascists justify the homicide of Michael Brown, whom they dismiss as nothing more than a thug who got what was coming to him. They deride the outpouring of grief and anger in Ferguson as being nothing more than a subhuman gallery of violent looters. They have nothing whatsoever to say about a military show of force against lawful protests in Ferguson, and ignore the obvious provocation of police snipers and tanks aiming at civilians in middle America. 

But when Cliven Bundy disregarded a lawful order of the court, and declared some sort of idiotic war against a federal government he claims has no legitimacy, hundreds of American fascists came to his aid. The bloodlust against federal agents was shocking, and we had images that contrast with those out of Ferguson in one very salient way: 

In Ferguson, protesters are mostly African-American, and the government’s guns are pointed at them. 

In Nevada, protesters were mostly white, and they pointed their guns at government agents. 

It’s like the anti-Burning Man

 

Cliven Bundy had people aiming guns at federal agents, but we’re supposed to get all upset because some angry demonstrators in Ferguson broke a McDonald’s store windows or stole some TVs? 

The people who support Cliven Bundy’s defiance of legitimate government authority think that the demonstrators in Ferguson have no business protesting questionable government actions. 

Go home, America. You’re drunk. 

Transforming Americans into Enemy Combatants

19 Aug

Stealing a pack of cigars and shoving a clerk justifies being shot 6 times to death

If the rioting in Ferguson, MO is to stop, the police should be as forthcoming with the incident report of Brown’s homicide as they were with the surveillance tape of him apparently ripping off cigars from a store. If cops could justifiably kill every kid who shoplifted or shoved someone, we’d probably be almost all out of kids

What I’m waiting for is all the big swinging 2nd Amendment / open carry dicks to defend Ferguson residents against tyrannical government behavior. The people who live in that community have a right to protest, and, as one Facebook friend writes, “the police are supposed to be peace keepers. Not funeral planners in fucking camouflage and armored tanks.”

Many have already convicted Michael Brown of Black thugdom in the 1st degree, and are using an irrelevant incident to justify his killing. In the meantime, we don’t have a copy of the police incident report regarding the shooting (those who support the shooting don’t wonder why, or give a damn because it might interfere with their conviction of Michael Brown), and the police officer has, as far as anyone knows, not once been required to give a statement to anyone in any forum, much less under oath. 

No one is justifying looting or violence in connection with these protests, and not all of the demonstrations have been thus. Consider whether a police response that looks more like Iraq than Missouri is a ham-handed provocation that serves mostly to treat local residents as enemy combatants. 

Scary big Black kid may have resisted arrest or talked back to a cop, so don’t tase or pepper spray him. Just shoot him 6 times.

The Morning Grumpy – November 22nd

22 Nov

I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news, and analysis. Each morning I’ll share several links that you can consume during your “morning grumpy”.

1. It is tremendously sad that up to 700 people will now be out of work at Pillar Processing and Steven J. Baum PC.

In an abrupt turn of events, Steven J. Baum is shutting down his foreclosure law firm and laying off at least 90 full- and part-time employees in Amherst and Long Island just days after losing the bulk of his business when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stopped giving the firm new work.

The closing could also affect 600 employees at Amherst-based Pillar Processing, a neighboring firm that handles much of the paperwork from the Baum office.

The announcement caps a remarkable fall for the state’s dominant foreclosure law firm, which until recently handled 40 percent of all foreclosures statewide.

The firm last month agreed to pay a $2 million fine and change its practices to settle a federal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, and is also under investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

But what may have hastened the firm’s demise were photos that recently emerged into the national spotlight from the firm’s Halloween party last year, at which Baum employees dressed up as foreclosure victims and attorneys, mocking and ridiculing them.

If any of the former employees find themselves in financial difficulty and perhaps in foreclosure proceedings, I hope they deal with a firm that extends them the ethical treatment, respect, and empathy the Baum firm failed to extend in recent years. We’re America, we need to be better than Steven J. Baum and his ilk.

2. The richest 0.1% of Americans reap nearly 50% of all capital gains.

The preferable treatment that investment income receives in the tax code is one of the factors driving the income inequality and galvanizing the Occupy Wall Street movement. Because the capital gains tax is capped at 15%, “anyone making more than $34,500 a year in wages and salary is taxed at a higher rate than a billionaire is taxed on untold millions in capital gains.

If you’re  a member of the Forbes 400, capital gains make up nearly 60% of your income.  All the while wages have remained flat for what used to be the middle class…

3. People who regularly get their news and information from Fox News are less informed than people who generally avoid news altogether. Yes, we now have proof, watching Fox News actually makes you dumber.

“Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News,” said Dan Cassino, a Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor who took part in the analysis of the PublicMind data. “Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions (about current events and news) than those who don’t watch any news at all.”

Yes, I know the poll is incredibly flawed and I posted it primarily to appeal to the condescending liberal elitist part of my audience. It isn’t a credible poll based on the limited number of questions asked and that it focused on people in New Jersey. While the poll is not especially credulous, some people are more prone towards in-group loyalty and confirmation bias. Jonathan Haidt’s work suggests that this tends to happen to people who identify more as conservative. So, draw your own conclusions.

4. First, they came for the salaries and benefits of teachers, cops, firemen and civil service employees. Up next? Soldiers. How a Pentagon advisory group stacked and staffed with Wall Street executives aims to slash the salaries and benefits of American soldiers.

These ideas may sound like a bold new approach in an urgent moment—but in fact, the push for pension cuts and other corporate “reforms” at the Pentagon originates from an obscure advisory panel that has existed for a decade: the Defense Business Board. Its 21 members know little about military affairs, but they are rich in Wall Street experience, including with some of the biggest companies implicated in the 2008 financial meltdown. They are investment bank CEOs and CFOs, outsourcing experts, and layoff specialists who promote a corporate agenda of “behavior change” and “business solutions” in the military bureaucracy. The board proposes not only to slash and privatize military pensions, but also to have the Pentagon invest in oil futures, boost pay for its executives and political appointees, and make it easier for them to fire rank-and-file employees while scaling back those workers’ collective-bargaining rights.

5. Where does New York’s 1% live? The Center for Working Families, a progressive think tank with ties to the Working Families Party breaks it down by State Senate District and State Assembly District using data from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The report finds that 93% of millionaires live in and around New York City and uses the data to argue that upstate lawmakers should support the continuation and further progressive modification of New York’s “Millionaire’s Tax” as it will have limited effect on their constituencies. Fewer than 0.4% of taxpayers in SD-58 would be affected, 1.4% in SD-59, 0.8% in SD-60, and 2.0% in SD-61.

Who Pays the Millionaires Tax Reporthttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/73355726/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list

 

Quote of the day: “There are some who maintain that trade will regulate itself, and it is not to be benefited by the encouragements or restraints of government. Such persons will imagine that there is no need of a common directing power. This is one of those wild speculative paradoxes, which have grown into credit among us, contrary to the uniform practice and sense of the most enlightened nations.” – Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and First Secretary of the Treasury (The Continentalist, No. 5)

Song Of The Day: Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside, “Against The Law”

Follow me on Twitter to satiate your need to observe juvenile bickering and consume tangential snarky observations on things.

The Morning Grumpy

29 Jun

I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news and analysis, so each morning I’ll share several that you can read during your “morning grumpy”.

1. Elena Cala is a lot of things; assistant to Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. James Williams, former editor of Buffalo Rising, Former Teacher, Mom, and Chanteuse, but she certainly isn’t known for handling the media very well. On Monday, her ongoing Sicilian blood feud with Buffalo News education beat reporter Mary Pasciak came to  a head. You see, Elena and other BPS staff are still upset over an article Pasciak wrote in which she demonstrated that several members of the superintendent’s staff did not hold the qualifications posted for their jobs, including Cala. There have been dozens of other perceived slights during Cala’s dealing with Pasciak, but the outcome of this one was fun to watch.Click through to watch the video tutorial from Elena on how NOT to handle media members who buy ink by the barrel.

My personal dealings with Elena have always been pleasant, but during her short tenure as an employee of Dr. Williams and the BPS, she has earned a horrible reputation as the most difficult press person in the region. That’s saying a lot, as there are a lot of pompous former media pros working in these PR departments around town.

As Pasciak reported in April,

Cala, special assistant to the superintendent for community relations, is supposed to have “seven years full-time experience in public or community relations in a large institution or educational setting,” according to the posting for her position.

The only such experience listed on her resume is a stint as a public relations assistant at Westinghouse Communities of Naples Inc. in 1985.

Cala, who makes $80,000 a year, worked most recently as an editor at Buffalo Rising for four years. Prior to that, she taught at a Catholic elementary school for four years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State College, where she became close friends with Mayor Byron W. Brown.

Questions remain whether it was her connections with Brown, her personal relationship with Joy McDuffie, or her efforts as editor at Buffalo Rising to drive favorable turnout during a critical school board election which got her the job, but Cala will probably not have to worry about dealing with oppositional media much longer.

2. As the seemingly pointless war in Afghanistan drags on, two stories came across my radar screen that I thought drove home the futility of the conflict and the long term human costs.

The BBC’s Ben Anderson spends 24 hours in Afghanistan’s bloody Helmand Province and shares his experience with analysts at VBS.tv.

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The utter futility of the entire conflict is palpable. Bring them home.

Meanwhile, the children of our deployed soldiers face horrible conditions in military schools and deal with the mental strain and anguish of their Fathers and Mothers fighting on the front lines half a world away for over a decade.

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The shame.

3. This just in from The Brookings Institute. Cleveland, Detroit, Youngstown and Buffalo are among 36 of the top 100 metropolitan areas whose population below the age of 45 declined during the last decade. At the opposite end of the spectrum, college towns such as Austin, Raleigh, Provo and Madison, experienced significant growth in pre-senior population. Think the Mayor or County Executive might be interested in addressing these problems or are we doomed to another couple of years of crumb hoarding at the political poker table?

4. Jon Stewart is America’s finest media critic and satirist and in this clip he very succinctly analyzes the entire strategy of Fox News. Nailed it.

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5. Actual news headlines versus Fox News headlines.

6. Every national political reporter who has an opportunity to interview Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney needs to read this article first.

7. Should You Change Your Password?

8. Enjoy 57 minutes of excellence by The Hood Internet.

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See ya tomorrow.

Bullets or Deficits?

22 Apr

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll demonstrates how “the american people™” want to address the deficit.

Cut Medicare?  Support: 21% Oppose:  78%

Cut Medicaid?  Support: 30% Oppose:  69%

Raise taxes on incomes of $250K and higher?  Support: 72% Oppose: 27%

Cut military spending?  Support: 42% Oppose: 56%

These figures are in line with traditional polling results, yet the entire national discussion about deficit reduction is built on privatizing Medicare, drastic cuts in Medicaid, and another 10% tax cut for the wealthy.

One way to look at those numbers is that when given a choice to cut one of the three biggest costs centers in the American Government, the people pick the military over their government healthcare by a wide margin.  And why shouldn’t they?  Our defense budget is absolutely out of control.  The USA is responsible for 46.5 per cent of the world total of defense expenditures, distantly followed by China (6.6% of world share), France (4.2%), UK (3.8%), and Russia (3.5%):

Current basing numbers and force deployments are hard to come by, so we’ll go with Wikipedia for the sake of a roundabout number.

As of 31 March 2008, U.S. Armed Forces were stationed at more than 820 installations in at least 135 countries. Some of the largest contingents are the 50,000 military personnel deployed in Iraq, the 71,000 (101,000 as of 3/2011) in Afghanistan, the 52,440 in Germany, the 35,688 in Japan (USFJ), the 28,500 in Republic of Korea (USFK), and the 9,660 in Italy and the 9,015 in the United Kingdom respectively. These numbers change frequently due to the regular recall and deployment of units.

So, why are we not having a national discussion about drawing down those numbers, bringing our troops home and cutting off development for useless Pentagon projects like the F-22 or Osprey?  Why are we so focused on making sure old people have to use coupons for healthcare rather than demanding a drawdown of deployed military forces?  Once upon a time a retiring Republican President warned us about this.

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In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed – Dwight D. Eisenhower

If only we had listened…

A Victory For America

19 Dec

Yesterday, the United States Senate overcame the ever present threat of a Republican filibuster and voted 63-33 to invoke cloture for an up or down vote on repealing the discriminatory policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)”.  Three hours later, the repeal passed the Senate with a vote of 65-31.  The House of Representatives had previously approved the measure, 250 to 175.

Some day, we’ll look back and wonder why it took so long to repeal it.  I think Senator McCain might feel differently as he was the primary opponent to the repeal of this policy, after supporting it in previous years.

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Enacted by President Clinton 17 years ago, DADT had led to the discharge of nearly 14,000 gay service members.  The policy has been the subject of controversy since Clinton backed it as a compromise in 1993, as gay rights advocates attacked it politically and sought relief in the courts. Earlier this year, a federal court declared the law unconstitutional and the decision is now under appeal.  However, the legislative repeal is the victory we all sought.  It is based upon the merits of the issue (not legal technicalities) and comes with the endorsement of a super majority of Senators, including eight Republicans.  It is a momentous occasion for civil rights in America.  President Obama released a statement thanking the Congress for making this possible.

Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend.

By ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.

As a veteran who served with dozens of LGBT airmen, seamen, soldiers and marines who served their country in fear, yesterday was a day filled with pride, remorse and hope.

The remorse is due to the fact that I served with three intelligence analysts and Arab linguists who were discharged from the Air Force when it was discovered that they were homosexual.  Losing those airmen in the service of our nation, after hundreds of thousands of dollars in training, in fields crucial to national security, made America less safe.  Soon, that will no longer be the case.

I hope that this victory serves as a penultimate chapter in this long battle for LGBT rights and that we will soon remove the last legislative barriers to full civil rights for all citizens.

Afghanistan as Choice

2 Dec

Afghanistan has been at the center of larger geopolitical struggles essentially since before its creation as a distinct nation-state.  It has been essentially ungoverned and ungovernable since a coup in 1973 deposed King, and the political situation led to the Soviet invasion in 1979.  The United States gave aid and support to the mujaheddin fighting the Soviets, and al Qaeda arose directly out of that mujaheddin movement. When the Soviets left, they turned their ire to the United States; the great satan which supports Israel and its policies towards the Palestinians, and maintains bases in Saudi Arabia.

When the United States attacked the Taliban in 2001 in the wake of 9/11 for providing safe haven to al Qaeda, they were defeated within a matter of weeks, and al Qaeda’s leadership fled, mostly into Pakistan’s border areas. Qaeda leadership has, for the most part, been captured with some very high profile exceptions, and its operations have been decimated as compared with early 2001.

By all accounts, the defeat of the Taliban and cessation of Qaeda’s safe haven in Afghanistan represented a military victory, and the establishment of the Karzai government in 2004 represented a political victory.  Unfortunately, Karzai turned out to be too corrupt for his own good, and the Taliban returned and has helped to keep Afghanistan ungovernable, dangerous, and unstable over the past few years.

Brian writes that Obama’s middling way on Afghanistan is not leadership.  There is some validity to that argument, because foreign military decisions should not know domestic political considerations.  Obama has been too happy to find compromise where none was needed nor sought.  If it hasn’t become crystal clear to him yet that he could all but adopt every word and deed of Saint Ronald of Reagan, and his political opponents would continue to call him a socialist Kenyan sleeper agent usurper, then I don’t know what his problem is.  The efforts to find bipartisan support need to end.  Obama needs to be Obama, and he needs to start telling Republicans to get on board or get the hell out of his way.

He is right, however, that Afghanistan needs to get the message that our military support – and the blood of our servicepeople – is not limitless.  After all, let’s be clear, our quarrel is not with the Taliban, per se.  If we want to go after every oppressive, misogynist dictatorship or theocracy, then we’ll be quite busy indeed, forever.  Our fight is against al Qaeda, and any other entity that would do harm to the United States and its people, property, and interests at home and abroad.  Right now the only safe haven they arguably have is in Pakistan.  But we can’t invade Pakistan for a variety of reasons.

If we go into this with the understanding that we’re not going to turn Afghanistan into Switzerland, then we’ve turned a corner.  There’s no reason for American troops to spend another day in that medieval failed state.  I don’t blame Obama for doing what he thinks will help get us out without leaving a complete military disaster, but I think there’s no way for Afghanistan to not be a disaster.  Afghani peace, unity, and progress must come from the Afghani people, not from an occupying power. Politicians in Washington are loath to spend money to improve our own infrastructure.  How can we expect them to spend on Afghanistan’s?  And why should we?

America has spent far too much money and shed far too much blood in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past few years.  Iraq was a needless and pointless war of choice.  Its stated goal of halting Hussein’s WMD production turned out to be a hoax, and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power has done nothing to promote the neoconservative dream of stability and peace for the Middle East in general and Israel in particular.  The war in Afghanistan has morphed from a war of necessity into yet another war of choice, and the time has come to tackle with that fact.  There is no victory to be achieved there, beyond what we’ve already accomplished.

Our war of necessity is against al Qaeda and its progeny.  Let’s call it what it is, and redouble our efforts to destroy it.  Victory at this point?  Capture Osama bin Laden and parade him in shackles through the streets of New York.  Victory won’t be how many square feet of dust we control in Afghanistan or how many drones can rain hell over Waziri villages.  It won’t be which warlord is running which province.  It will be, at this point, largely symbolic.

And if the US manages to capture bin Laden under an Obama administration, I have no doubt that his detractors would find fundamental constitutional and Biblical fault with it.