Sunday, December 28, 2014

John McCain, Drill Baby Drill, and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Remember when John McCain was agitating the right wing masses with chants of “Drill baby, drill?”

Oh yeah, he quickly gave lip service to alternative energy sources – a sort of kiss before sending alternative energy to the gibbet with a hooded executioner. The emphasis was clearly on getting all the filthy fossil fuel we could out of the earth and sending it up the chimney for the enrichment of oil interests that were backing mostly the candidates of the right.

Here’s a reminder if you need it, but keep reading after you watch.

Now, from the New York Times, comes this:
HOUSTON — States dependent on oil and gas revenue are bracing for layoffs, slashing agency budgets and growing increasingly anxious about the ripple effect that falling oilprices may have on their local economies. 
The concerns are cutting across traditional oil states like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alaska as well as those like North Dakota that are benefiting from the nation’s latest energy boom 
“The crunch is coming,” said Gunnar Knapp, a professor of economics and the director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Right-O John. The oil’s gushing like water and it’s the oil producing states that are getting screwed.

Of course, in a way everybody’s getting screwed, even as cheap oil for as while produces some prosperity. With oil selling for less than – well certainly less than bottled water – the impetus to turn to alternative fuels has gone up the chimney. So you can expect the auto makers to sell more SUVs this year and fewer fuel-efficient cars. You can expect the solar and wind industries to wither. And eventually, when somebody tightens the oil spigot, everybody’s screwed and we’ll all be right back to where we were a few years ago.

One way to ameliorate the situation at least a little bit – and to get some desperately needed infrastructure repairs financed at the same time – would be to slap cheap gasoline with a five cent, or maybe even a ten cent federal gasoline tax.

With a Republican Congress? I have to be kidding, right?

Right. So we might as well all lie back and enjoy getting scewed. Long live St. Ayn. Forget I said anything, kiddies. Go back to your economics textbook. You know the one I mean. “Atlas Shrugged.” The current situation gives new meaning to the title. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Young black man shot dead by cops for shopping in Wal-Mart

A young black man wanders into Wal-Mart, walking up and down the aisles while chatting on a cell phone. He finds an air rifle left out on a counter top and picks it up. He continues shopping – or doing the Wal-Mart version of window shopping, eventually wandering into the pet department.

There, still holding the rifle – perhaps he’s on his way, eventually, to the checkout counter – and still chatting on the phone, he seems to be looking at merchandise on a dog food rack.

Meanwhile, a vigilante do-gooder calls 911 and reports he sees a man with a rifle loading the weapon in the store and pointing it at people. None of which is corrrect, store surveillance videos and later investigation show.

The cops arrive. They have real weapons that really are loaded. They dash into the store. Later they claim they told  the young man, who was still talking on his cell phone, to drop the gun. Even assuming that they are telling the truth, he clearly doesn’t hear them. His head doesn’t appear to  turn their way. He still continues chatting on the phone. About one second later, they blow him to kingdom come.

Cops, desperate to justify the shooting, bully the dead man’s girlfriend, still in shock from learning of his death, first trying to get her say that her boyfriend had the gun when he arrived at Wal-Mart, then accusing her of drug use, and also threatening her, “You lie to me and you might be on your way to jail.” You can watch a small piece of this disgusting interrogation here:

A grand jury convenes. Need I tell you the outcome? Right. The grand jury decides the police were “justified” in ending the young man’s life. 

If you’re from Ohio, you already know this story. It’s been in local papers, including the Dayton Daily News, and others for weeks. But although the shooting has had some television airtime and some play in The Guardian and The Huffington Post, similar events in Missouri and New York, with bigger media presence, have drowned out the story for most of the rest of the nation.

So here’s another dead body to add to the growing mound of young black corpses, on top of the second corpse within a few miles of Ferguson.

The rage in America is growing. Keep it up, cops. Get just a little more trigger happy and we all might get stuck with a full blown revolution on our hands. The American revolution started with a “justified shooting” by British troops and created a massacre in Boston. Study the history or repeat it, as the police and prosecutors seem hellbent on making sure happens.

And with that said, Merry Christmas. I suppose.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Niceblog

Friday, December 19, 2014

Taking hostages: ISIS, Kim Jong-un, Norman Seabrook and Viral Bad Behavior

Seabrook – you'd better
read about him below
Dear Leader Kim fattens while his people starve
Let’s start with the firm premise that I have no use for any of the entities mentioned in the headline or depicted above. Each, in his own way, represents something disgraceful about the human race. 

But what I’ve noticed lately is that vile behavior is spreading like a virus, thanks to guys like these.

I don’t need to explain much about ISIS, the organization whose trademark outrage, among its many outrages, is capturing innocent strangers and cutting off their heads.

Nor do I have to explain Kim Jong-un, the fat North Korean dictator in a land of starving people. He’s the one who just made a name for himself by bringing Sony to its knees for daring to make a film that satirized him. In the course of it he threatened the lives of any person who dares – dares! – to see the movie. He’s threatening violence in the style of 9-11. 

The silence from Congress is deafening. Our lawmakers seem terrified to so much as speak a word against him. He may be the most powerful influence on Congress since the NRA. Sometimes I wonder if he has bought as many legislators as the NRA.

But unless you live in New York – in fact,  even if you live in New York but don’t read the papers closely, Norman Seabrook’s name may leave you scratching your head. Norman who?

Seabrook is head of something called COBA, a renegade union called the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, and although his photograph makes him look affable enough, he is your worst nightmare. His sociopathic excuse for a labor union has demonstrated that he will shut down the city’s courts and criminal justice system if anyone dares challenge the brutality of the prison guards who form his union’s membership.

 They beat up teen-agers and allow or encourage others to do the same. They continence prison rape and sodomy and have been known to participate in it themselves. They smuggle contraband in to prisoners who pay off. They allow prisoners to bake to death. And then they lie, in incident after incident, to cover up the true facts.

And should anyone dare to bring individual officers up on charges, the union shuts down the courts by preventing the transport of prisoners from the Riker’s Island prison complex in the East River to any of the city’s courtrooms. The New York Times reports:
Last year, the same union effectively shut down the court system in the city for a day, an exercise in a different kind of power. Led by Norman Seabrook, the president of the union, correction officers claimed every single bus for transporting prisoners was unfit to drive or could not be moved. What were they up to? Well, the shutdown took place on the day a man being held at Rikers Island was supposed to be delivered to the Bronx courthouse to testify at the trial of two correction officers accused of assaulting him. The prisoner, and 750 other people due in courts throughout the city, were not able to go.
Each time brutal or justice-evading tactics are used – whether by ISIS, tinpot dictators, a corruption-tolerating union chief who is giving the many good unions a bad name, another stake is driven into the heart of civil society.

It’s all hostage-taking, whether you’re ISIS and you behead them, or you’re COBA and you take the entire criminal justice system hostage while you beat prisoners to death, some of them mere kids.

Hey, if they can get away with it, then why not me or my organization, too? And so brutal, thuggish, corrupt bad behavior grows viral.

Norman Seabrook is no better than Kim Jong-un, or the ISIS murderers. If he and his people get away with it, there will be another group perpetrating a new group of outrages, for sure.

A bill, egged on by Seabrook and Coba,  is coming before New York State Governor Cuomo. It will move the venue for cases brought against out-of-control brutal prison guards to Queens, from the historic and legal venue of The Bronx, where at least the distract attorney seems to have a spine. The question is, will Governor Cuomo also have spine – or at least spine enough to veto the bill? 

Or will he let the unions get away with it because they’re big campaign contributors – having “donated” $300,000 to state elected officials from both parties.

The New York Times reports:
The two prosecutors signed a letter stating their vigorous opposition to the bill’s purpose and language. 
“Remarkably, in one short sentence, this bill manages to be ambiguous as to its meaning, potentially unconstitutional and at odds with the surrounding provisions of Criminal Procedure Law,” they wrote. 
The state district attorneys association is opposed to it; the Legal Aid Society is opposed; Mayor Bill de Blasio is opposed; so is the New York Civil Liberties Union. 
“It’s rare that you’ll see those individuals and groups coming together on one side of an issue,” Mr. Brown said. 
Governor Cuomo’s office did not reply to a question about his intentions.
Eh, Governor Cuomo?

Friday, December 12, 2014

In case you need further evidence that the concerns of Wall Street have nothing to do with you or me…

Why is Wall Street frowning? Because things
seem to be going better for the average 
As of late the morning of Friday, December 23...
  • Oil prices have plunged to the lowest level since 2009, below $60 a barrel. This means that ordinary Americans will be able to spend less on gasoline and heating oil, and therefore will have more money to spend on other things, a spur to the economy.
  • A long-expected increase in interest rates by the Fed is now less likely to happen, making borrowing cheaper for consumers and growth-minded businesses as well.
  • Consumer confidence, a measure of the ordinary American’s willingness to spend money, is above expectations. And it’s at an eight-year high. This ought to result in more money getting poured into the economy, fueling further growth.
Pop the champagne corks, right?

Well, not on Wall Street where, as of 11:40 a.m., the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 17,399, a tumble of 196.63 points since the day before.

However, perhaps Wall Street won’t be unhappy for very long.  The latest budget “compromise” in Congress changes parts of the Dodd Frank financial reform law that banned crazy derivatives trading. 

So now bankers will be able to recreate the same financial meltdown we had a few years ago, with the bland assurance that you and I will once more be forced to bail them out. Either that, or we collapse into another Great Depression.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The exquisite torture of the CIA torturers’ double-talk

This is a scene from a Medieval torture chamber. It very closely
resembles  what documented evidence indicates the CIA has 
done. And worse.
You’d have to be living on Mars to miss the news. The United States Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture is out, although only a mere 406 page summary of the full 4,600 page report is available to  everyday citizens.

Now the CIA chiefs, present and past, and their supporters, are turning inside out and backwards to deny everything while defending everything that the CIA and its contractors have  done – horrid, disgusting, inhuman, sexually perverted things clearly documented by the Senators.

The arguments of those defending perversion in the name of patriotism seem to boil down to these basic points
  1. In the first place, we didn’t do it.
  2. In the second place, we had to do it because 9-11
  3. In the third place we were given the legal authority to do it, even though when we did it, we didn’t do it.
  4. In the fourth place, even though we didn’t do it, what we did yielded valuable intelligence that interrupted plots against America – plots that we can’t tell you about because otherwise the people who are plotting against us would find out what their own plots are.
  5. In the fifth place, the 4,008-page report is “oversimplistic”.
  6. In the sixth place, the report is “analytically offensive,” whatever that means.
Flipping television channels last night and this morning, you could watch these creeps nearly gagging on their own tongues trying to make themselves look good. Or at least not like the liars, sadists, perverts, and most damning of all, the intelligence incompetents that they are.

Perverts? Well here’s a tidbit from the stern nurse-with-enema-bag sadomasochistic fantasy that, if you do a great deal of hunting around, you might find on some of the S&M porn movie sites somewhere on the Internet. And no, I'm not going to direct you CIA defenders to those websites, so you can drop your pants and masturbate to them.

"At least five CIA detainees were subjected to 'rectal rehydration' or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity," the report said. More specifically, "Majid Khan's 'lunch tray' of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins was 'pureed' and rectally infused.”

The torturers from the CIA, or CIA-supervised weirdos "had among other activities, 
engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault,” according to the report.

When I was a kid, I read – in a 1942 issue of the pretty conservative Readers’ Digest of all places – the summary of a then best-selling book by someone named Jan Valtin, who described how he was tortured by the Nazis in an SS dungeon.

You could take excerpts from Valtin’s book, and excerpts of the report from the Senate. and you almost couldn’t tell which is which.

We hanged most of the Nazis we caught as war criminals. That’s all I have to say on the matter.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

I know, I’m late on this. But the grand jury decision concerning officer Darren Wilson is a crock. A big one. Here’s why.

During the facedown with Michael Brown
Officer Darren Wilson had several options
other than shooting. But oh hell, bang bang!
I’m not going to go into any depth on how a prosecutor can impartially indict a cop from a department with which he has to work on a daily basis.

I’m not going to go into why he didn’t stand aside in favor of an outside prosecutor with no axes to grind.

I'm not going to ask why he put Darren Wilson on the witness stand at all, much less why he put him there before anyone else.

What burns my butt is that the prosecutor didn’t ask simple followup questions as Wilson testified.

So  it started we had officer Darren Wilson in a car and he spots some Black dude jaywalking. I’m also not going to go into whether the cop ever before enforced a jaywalking statute in his life.

And let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that as Wilson and some – not all – witnesses say, Brown reached into the cop's car, and somehow or other got his arm in deep enough to reach down, across the seat, and into Wilson’s holster for the weapon. And let's also grant for the sake of argument that Brown had the strength of a make-believe comic book hero. And let’s also grant that Brown had indeed shoplifted some cheap cigars and straight-armed a store clerk who tried to stop him. And that furthermore, Brown was committing that most grave of all crimes, jaywalking.

And then let us grant that according  CNN...

Wilson told the detectives how he ran through in his mind what he could do -- mace, baton, flashlight -- before going for his gun. To the grand jury, he expanded, describing a "use of force" triangle as to what reaction was appropriate. 
To the grand jury, Wilson also described his fear. He told jurors Brown was so powerful that when he grabbed the 18-year-old's forearm, "I felt like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan." 
That’s where a prosecutor who wasn’t sleepwalking, phoning it in, or more probably making damn sure he wouldn’t tempt a grand jury to indict might have jumped in and asked a few revealing questions. Like these two:
  • “So why, officer Wilson, didn’t you just roll the window up on Mr. Brown’s arm? With a piece of glass jamming his arm against the top of the window space, don’t you think you could have bent back his fingers and made him let go?
Or alternatively:
•So why, Officer Wilson, didn’t you just step on the gas and drive a short distance away from Mr. Brown, so that he couldn’t reach your gun? Or are you arguing that his “Hulk Hogan” strength would have been enough to stop several hundred horsepower of police vehicle in its tracks?
I know, I know, former cop Darren Wilson said, “I didn’t want him to run away.” Which raises some more questions:
  • Is it worth drawing your weapon and firing bullets into the body of a human being to keep him from running away from a charge of shoplifting?
  • Assuming Mr. Brown had run, and for the sake of law, order and the future of Democracy you had to catch this sticky-fingered thief, couldn’t you have followed him in your car until police backup arrived? Or if he took shelter in a house, simply waited for backup and then gone and arrested him inside?
It’s interesting how prosecutors will withhold  or ignore exculpatory evidence, frame people in death penalty cases, and get a conviction at all costs in murder trials – all completely unforgivable but rarely punished crimes of prosecutorial misconduct. Yet in this case prosecutor McCulloch did his damnedest to exonerate  before a grand jury – which was there simply to indict – an officer on what was at the very least a case of coarsely mindless police brutality.

In my own opinion, Wilson is most certainly not guilty of murder in the first degree, possibly not even of murder in the second degree. There's no evidence that he spotted Brown and set out to kill him. But there’s a strong cases that Wiilson's actions and reactions in this case were tantamount at least to criminal negligence and wanton disregard for life.

Wilson according even to his own testimony, is a killer, if only a manslaughter killer. And what does that make so-called Prosecutor Bob McCullogh? I leave it to you to find the correct adjective. The ones that occur to me are unprintable.