Friday Reads: Crazy go Nuts News only because of Crazy go Nuts White People

It’s Friday Sky Dancers!  It’s the day of the week when the news cycle goes bonkers. But, of course, it’s only because what’s going on in our country makes it so.  WTF is wrong with White People?  Haven’t we learned anything? If any of our Sky Dancers of Color would like to start actively writing on the front page please let us know! I can write about all of this but only as some one who watches and learns. That’s not the vantage point that needs to be heard.  We know of all the white supremacist activity that’s been happening around the country.  So, why is the FBI focused on this?

This is horrifying:  From the Guardian: ‘Black activist jailed for his Facebook posts speaks out about secret FBI surveillance.  Exclusive: Rakem Balogun spoke out against police brutality. Now he is believed to be the first prosecuted under a secretive US effort to track so-called ‘black identity extremists’ ‘

Rakem Balogun thought he was dreaming when armed agents in tactical gear stormed his apartment. Startled awake by a large crash and officers screaming commands, he soon realized his nightmare was real, and he and his 15-year-old son were forced outside of their Dallas home, wearing only underwear.

Handcuffed and shaking in the cold wind, Balogun thought a misunderstanding must have led the FBI to his door on 12 December 2017. The father of three said he was shocked to later learn that agents investigating “domestic terrorism” had been monitoring him for years and were arresting him that day in part because of his Facebook posts criticizing police.

“It’s tyranny at its finest,” said Balogun, 34. “I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.”

Balogun spoke to the Guardian this week in his first interview since he was released from prison after five months locked up and denied bail while US attorneys tried and failed to prosecute him, accusing him of being a threat to law enforcement and an illegal gun owner.

Balogun, who lost his home and more while incarcerated, is believed to be the first person targeted and prosecuted under a secretive US surveillance effort to track so-called “black identity extremists”. In a leaked August 2017 report from the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, officials claimed that there had been a “resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity” stemming from African Americans’ “perceptions of police brutality”.

The counter-terrorism assessment provided minimal data or evidence of threats against police, but discussed a few isolated incidents, notably the case of Micah Johnson who killed five officers in Texas. The report sparked backlash from civil rights groups and some Democrats, who feared the government would use the broad designation to prosecute activists and groups like Black Lives Matter.

Balogun, who was working full-time for an IT company when he was arrested, has long been an activist, co-founding Guerrilla Mainframe and the Huey P Newton Gun Club, two groups fighting police brutality and advocating for the rights of black gun owners. Some of the work included coordinating meals for the homeless, youth picnics and self-defense classes – but that’s not what interested the FBI.

Then, watch this:

From Elle Magazine: ‘A Dusty Congressman Tried to Reclaim Rep. Maxine Waters’ Time; It Didn’t Go Well’.

Hello and welcome to another edition of America’s favorite game show, They Really Tried It, with your host, Representative Maxine Waters. Today’s contestant is Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania (R) who, on Tuesday, took it upon himself to point his finger at Rep. Waters, shake it like a Polaroid picture, and tell her to stop talking about discrimination.

I’m already exhausted. In a video that comes from @FCSDems, an informational service that also doubles as a Maxine Waters fan account, Kelly attempts to call Waters out but it goes straight to voicemail. Waters, in turn, reminds him and all of us, just who she is. In so doing, she also coins a new catchphrase for the kids, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Rep. Kelly, who in the video of the exchange is the kind of hype you imagine Twitter trolls with three followers are, really thought that he could take it upon himself to tell Rep Waters, well, anything. Well, audience, we have the results and it turns out, he could not.

The dispute started, as most basic misunderstandings of intersectionality do, with a discussion of auto lending. The Trump administration and Congressional Republicans are trying to roll back Obama-era legislation (how many times has that phrase been written) that prevents auto lenders from discriminating against potential buyers. The legislation, S.J. Res. 57, seeks not only to repeal the guidelines and permanently prevent Congress from ever again enacting anything similar.

Trump seems hellbent on rolling back everything that President Obama did. Tomorrow he’s outlawing tan suits and next week he’s rolling back the death of Fidel Castro and putting Cuba back on the no-no list. It’s amazing to witness the work of a president whose policy handbook comes straight from Biff Tannen of Back to the Future. I would not be surprised to find out Trump is working on a time machine so that he can go back and prevent Obama’s birth. I’m fine with that, actually, because he’d send himself back to Kenya in 1961 and spend the rest of his days fruitlessly nosing around hospitals like a low-rent Herod.

Back in the present, Rep. Kelly wasn’t satisfied to just make whatever point he had about keeping all the Whos in Whoville from enjoying Christmas, and thought it was a good time to lecture Waters. “We’re making America great,” he said, apparently without irony. “And the best way to do that is to stop talking about discrimination.”

 

Don'T Come For Me Maxine Waters GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Lest we forget how bad white male privilege can get, let’s wander on down into the swamp of the local level in states like mine. Here’s The Advocate showing how one state Representative from Louisiana managed to offend every woman representative in the entire body.

An effort to describe how Louisiana’s female prisoners should be treated sparked testy exchanges in the House, as a male lawmaker criticized the measure as offering unequal treatment to women and men.

The bill would require female prisoners to have access to feminine hygiene products at no cost, amid concerns some women have been forced to pay for them. The measure also would limit when male prison guards can conduct a pat-down or body cavity search on a woman and add guidelines for how male guards enter areas of a prison where women are undressed.

Rep. Kenny Havard responded with an amendment to place similar limits on how female prison guards deal with male prisoners. It provoked an outcry from female lawmakers, who called it disrespectful. Havard withdrew the proposal.

Havard. R-St. Francisville, made international news in 2016 when he attempted to amend legislationaimed at setting a minimum age for strippers with weight restrictions. Havard, at the time, said his stripper amendment was a misfired criticism about bills that are too intrusive.

That’s the Cliff Notes version. Here’s some details from my friend Melinda DeSlatte who covers the lege for AP.

Louisiana lawmaker sparked complaints Thursday that he disrespected women by criticizing legislation that recommends how female prisoners should be treated.

The bill up for debate would require female prisoners to have access to feminine hygiene products at no cost, amid concerns some women have been forced to pay for them. The measure would limit when male prison guards can conduct a pat-down or body-cavity search on a woman. And new guidelines would describe how male guards should enter areas where women may be undressed.

Rep. Kenny Havard, a St. Francisville Republican, responded with an amendment to place similar limits on how female prison guards could deal with male prisoners. The proposal provoked an outcry and some shouting from female lawmakers, and Havard withdrew the amendment before the House ultimately approved the bill.

“Rep. Havard, have you ever been a woman?” Rep. Julie Stokes asked during the debate.

“I was at Halloween one time,” Havard replied.

Stokes, a Kenner Republican, then told him that women have “biological things” that make life “a bit harder.”

“In my opinion, you’re disrespecting women,” Stokes told Havard.

Rep. Patricia Smith, a Baton Rouge Democrat, echoed the complaints, citing rapes of female inmates.

Men get raped in prison, too, Havard replied.

Havard said he was merely trying to make a point that men and women should be treated equally. He also raised concerns that the bill could make it harder to monitor female prisoners for contraband and other improper activities. And he complained about news coverage of earlier comments he made about having too many female prison guards for male prisoners.

“My point that I’m trying to make here is we have to find a way to fund these prisons so we aren’t short-handed,” Havard said.
After Havard withdrew his amendment, the bill sponsored by Sen. Regina Barrow, a Baton Rouge Democrat, passed with a vote of 86-0.

Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras chastised his colleagues: “OK, members, we’re getting to the end of the day. The decorum is falling apart.”

So, this is part of a nationwide Trumpsterfire to dismantle anti-discrimination laws that aggrieve white men and their captive wives, it seems. The ACLU is “Suing Ben Carson for Trying to Dismantle the Fair Housing Act”. That one is of particular interest to KKKremlin Caligula since Daddy and junior were successfully found guilty of violating it many times over.  It also has an Obama link and of course, Hair Furor has to actively destroy all things Obama.

It is no accident that much of the United States remains segregated. Decades of slavery, Jim Crow laws, discriminatory lending practices, and intentional policy choices at the federal, state, and local level — most of which were enacted within the last 80 years — helped make it so.

The Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968, just a week after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, was meant to address the decades of discrimination that led to such segregation. The FHA made it illegal to discriminate against anyone buying or renting a house because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (it’s since been amended to include family status and disability, too). But it also sought to replace segregation in America with “truly integrated and balanced living patterns” by requiring agencies to “affirmatively” further fair housing in all programs related to housing.

The FHA brought about a sea change with respect to individual housing discrimination — Americans today would be shocked to find an apartment listing that indicated Black people or women with children could not apply. But its promise of integrating neighborhoods has been left largely unfulfilled. As former Vice President Walter Mondale, who co-authored the legislation, pointed out recently in a New York Times op-ed, the FHA is the “most ignored” of the era’s civil rights laws.

It seems like Secretary Ben Carson, head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would like to keep it that way. In January, the agency suspended the only regulation to ever give the FHA real leverage in ending segregation. The move puts housing integration in serious jeopardy, so we’re challenging it in court.

Since it was enacted, successive presidential administrations largely ignored their affirmative obligations to create fair housing, allowing federal government dollars to flow uninterrupted to cities and towns that have policies in place that maintain segregation. Then, in 2015, the Obama administration finally began to seriously address this issue by putting in place a regulation called the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule. The rule required cities and towns to create a plan to address segregation and discrimination and to lay out concrete goals for bringing fair housing and opportunity to members of all the groups protected by the FHA before receiving government money. Examples of these goals include building affordable housing in areas well-served by transit and prohibiting landlords from discriminating against people who use a government subsidy to pay part of their rent.

Shall we head on up to the head of the beast?  This is from Think Progress: White House chief of staff demonizes immigrants in racist rant.  Xenophobia doesn’t get more hackneyed than this.’ 

In a wide-ranging interview with NPR, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly shared some rather racist views to justify the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings.

Defending an approach that will split up families, Kelly explained that he thinks these immigrants don’t really fit in with United States culture anyway:

Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS13. … But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society.

Concerns about immigrants’ ability to assimilate with American society have been used repeatedly throughout the country’s history to justify barring different groups from immigrating. For example, the Chinese Exclusion Act, a law that prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers from 1882 until 1943, was passed because Chinese immigrants were blamed for the depressed wages that followed the Gold Rush and Civil War. In 1890, the New York Times printed an article that explained that while “the red and black assimilate… not so the Chinaman.”

Let’s just head back to an article from The Atlantic from 2016.  We’ve known all along that Make America Great Again and all Donald Trumps associated rhetoric harkens back to the KKK and to anti immigrant fever from times not as far back as we thought.  “Make America White Again? Donald Trump’s language is eerily similar to the 1920s Ku Klux Klan—hypernationalistic and anti-immigrant.”

This has happened before. As The Atlantic’s Yoni Appelbaum pointed out, the Republican front-runner’s refusal to repudiate white supremacists’ support as well as the bombast in his campaign are both echoes of the Ku Klux Klan. As a historian of the 1920s Klan, I noticed the resonances, too. Trump’s “Make America great again” language is just like the rhetoric of the Klan, with their emphasis on virulent patriotism and restrictive immigration. But maybe Trump doesn’t know much about the second incarnation of the order and what Klansmen and Klanswomen stood for. Maybe the echoes are coincidence, not strategy to win the support of white supremacists. Maybe Trump just needs a quick historical primer on the 1920s Klan—and their vision for making America great again.

In 1915, William J. Simmons, an ex-minister and self-described joiner of fraternities, created a new Ku Klux Klan dedicated to “100 percent Americanism” and white Protestantism. He wanted to evoke the previous Reconstruction Klan (1866-1871) but refashion it as a new order—stripped of vigilantism and dressed in Christian virtue and patriotic pride. Simmons’s Klan was to be the savior of a nation in peril, a means to reestablish the cultural dominance of white people. Immigration and the enfranchisement of African Americans, according to the Klan, eroded this dominance and meant that America was no longer great. Simmons, the first imperial wizard of the Klan, and his successor, H.W. Evans, wanted Klansmen to return the nation to its former glory. Their messages of white supremacy, Protestant Christianity, and hypernationalism found an eager audience. By 1924, the Klan claimed 4 million members; they wore robes, lit crosses on fire, read Klan newspapers, and participated in political campaigns on the local and national levels.

To save the nation, the Klan focused on accomplishing a series of goals. A 1924 Klan cartoon, “Under the Fiery Cross,” illustrated those goals: restricted immigration, militant Protestantism, better government, clean politics, “back to the Constitution,” law enforcement, and “greater allegiance to the flag.” Along with the emphases on government and nationalism, the order also mobilized under the banners of vulnerable white womanhood and white superiority more generally. Nativism, writes historian Matthew Frye Jacobson in Whiteness of a Different Color, is a crisis about the boundaries of whiteness and who exactly can be considered white. It is a reaction to a shift in demographics, which confuses the dominant group’s understanding of race. For the KKK, Americans were supposed to be only white and Protestant. They championed white supremacy to keep the nation white, ignoring that citizenry was not constrained to their whims.

This was the movement that attracted Donald’s Daddy Dearest.

Every day, a monumental 20th century stride towards making our union more perfect with the goal of inclusion is being torn down.  Voting while we can has never been more important.

Oh, and Don’t forget!  If you’re black and you stay at an Air BNB be sure to smile and wave and maybe shuck and jive so the white people know you’re not a Black Panther!!!

And if you’re a black graduate student who falls asleep in your own dorm … well, I don’t know what you have to do for this little white girl. She calls the cops on every black person around her …

It’s a familiar story. A black person is minding their own business. A white woman notices them and calls the cops.

The latest event in a long historical pattern took place at Yale University this week (paywall). A black graduate student, Lolade Siyonbola, was taking a nap in her dorm’s common room on Monday night after an evening writing papers. A white woman who also lives in the dorm noticed Siyonbola sleeping, told her she was not supposed to be there, and called campus security. “I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room,” the woman said in the first of two Facebook videos posted by Siyonbola.

The fallout is captured in a 17-minute Facebook video posted by Siyonbola, which now has more than 600,000 views. She shows the campus officers her room key and unlocks her apartment; the officers press her to produce identification, while Siyonbola questions whether the request is justified. Once the officers verify her identity, they leave.

The incident is the latest in a string of high-profile incidents that have exposed a troubling, often-overlooked truth about racial discrimination in the US. The Black Lives Matter movement intensified focus on police brutality in black communities, which tends to involve white male police officers’ violence against black men, sometimes with deadly results. But Siyonbola’s experience highlights the fact that white women play a role in encounters between the police and black Americans, too. Again and again, the news cycle highlights stories of white women who felt threatened by the mere presence of a black person in a public space, and called the cops.

And don’t go any here near your local Neighborhood phone Ap Nextdoor because it will be an endless stream of black people sightings including kids just trying to walk home from school even in my 9th ward New Orleans neighborhood.

You may want to read this and think on it. From the Guardian: “How white women use strategic tears to silence women of colour” by 

At the Sydney writers’ festival on Sunday, editor of Djed Press, Hella Ibrahim, relayed the final minutes of a panel on diversity featuring writers from the western Sydney Sweatshop collective. One of the panellists, Winnie Dunn, in answering a question about the harm caused by good intentions, had used the words “white people” and “shit” in the same sentence. This raised the ire of a self-identified white woman in the audience who interrogated the panellists as to “what they think they have to gain” by insulting people who “want to read their stories.”

In other words, the woman saw a personal attack where there wasn’t one and decided to remind the panellists that as a member of the white majority she ultimately has their fate in her hands.

“I walked out of that panel frustrated,” Ibrahim wrote. “Because yet again, a good convo was derailed, white people centred themselves, and a POC panel was told to police it’s [sic] tone to make their message palatable to a white audience.”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  And the offer to extend the front page is open to really any one.  We’re having a hard time keep up with things here since so much of what we care about is basically under fire.

I was thrilled to find so many local governments running kids’ art projects for Fair Housing themes.  These are some selections from Greensborough, NC,  and Portland, Oregon.

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Sunday Reads: I Witch I may, I Witch I might…

b2d2fed97ae3cb8d4b0f640a90a6ec08Good Mourning…

Yes, it seems that Halloween is coming early this year. All around us we see tricks being played out. Some are the sort of tricks played on people who must really be dumb as dirt to fall for them.

Progressives and libertarians came together in Washington on Saturday to protest widespread government surveillance, taking a tentative step towards creating a coalition that isn’t as awkward as the pairing might appear.

Organized by the coalition Stop Watching Us, which includes dozens of groups ranging from Internet freedom advocates to Tea Party organizations, the rally attracted hundreds of people to the Capitol Reflecting Pool to protest the electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency revealed by Edward Snowden this year. The crowd included Occupy protesters, Ron Paul libertarians, and even strict constitutionalist Oathkeepers. Yet despite some recent grumbling on the left about having to work with libertarians on the issue, attendees and speakers on both sides said they were happy to unite around a common enemy.

Seriously, who the hell would want to be associated with those crazy-ass Oathkeepers? (That link goes to a page over at Southern Poverty Law Center, Oathkeepers are a hate group you know…) Actually, these are not dumb people, that would be an insult to the stupid folks that do have low IQ as an excuse to become partnered with assholes like Ron Paul. So who spoke at this thing?

Onstage, speakers ranged from progressives like former congressman Dennis Kucinich to libertarians like Johnson and Rep. Justin Amash, as well as NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Jessalyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, who visited Snowden in Russia two weeks ago and read a statement attributed to him for the crowd. Snowden was a central figure in absentia at the protest, with most people holding signs or wearing t-shirts emblazoned with his face.

The article says the rally was mostly “libertarian” in nature…but these are a few of the quotes you should not miss:

A recent article in Salon by progressive journalist Tom Watson had ruffled feathers by calling on liberals to boycott the really[sic] because of its libertarian elements. “I cannot support this coalition or the rally,” Watson wrote. “It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.” Watson described the Stop Watching Us coalition as “fatally infected.”

Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin rejected this premise in an interview with BuzzFeed next to the main speaker’s stage .

“Left and right doesn’t mean anything anymore,” Benjamin said. Democrats and Republicans, she said, “both like the status quo. Libertarians or leftists are people who want to defend the values of this country and not have party politics and I think we’ve started coming around together on many of these issues.”

“I think that strange bedfellows around particular issues is the way that change has happened throughout history,” she said.

923f0d4eb1cba82cba3ad14e09f0b779Uh…first off, that Medea Benjamin needs to STFU. Its sounds to me like she is fatally ridiculous. I got a question for her. If left and right doesn’t mean anything anymore…How does she feel about the way the “right” values her uterus? Hmmmm…..lets see her libertarian friends get out and defend that part of this country…the 50 percent vagina part!

But wait, and hear it from an actual idiot himself, here’s another quote:

By all appearances at the Stop Watching Us rally, they did — though a bit warily. John McGloin, an Occupy protester from New York who described himself as a “sometimes” progressive, said he could accept working with libertarians to try and curtail government surveillance as long as they weren’t “people who think we should all fend for ourselves — that’s where I draw the line.”“We definitely need all the help we can get,” McGloin said.

3824f7d2bf57d3d02b94160798bb0508Hey buddy, that ain’t help, that is a hindrance!

Alright, up next: A few items on Rural America.

From the “You might be a redneck” theme of news reports, really the headline should say it all: Georgia man runs into burning home to save beer | abc13.com

COLUMBUS, GA (KTRK) — “I went back into the house like a dummy.” That’s what one man in Georgia said after he risked his life to save beer from his fridge while his house was on fire.

The flames broke out while six adults and two young children were watching TV. Everyone quickly made it outside safely.

But then Walter Serpit, who walks with a cane, rushed back into the burning building to save something near and dear to him.

“I told them to get the kids out and everything, and me myself, being an alcoholic, I was trying to get my beer out,” he said. “You feel me?”

Now, remember what I said up top about the folks who have a real excuse for partnering with those libertarian assholes? You feel me?

Walter made it out with a couple of cold ones, and the fire department made a statement that you should never run back into a burning building…period.

That story is actually sad and pathetic.

bbe24b789f085d912abe6483d2667dd2More bad news on the Obamacare front, from the New York Times: Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices for Rural Areas

As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans.

While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.

Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating.

The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.

“There’s nothing in the structure of the Affordable Care Act which really deals with that problem,” said John Holahan, a fellow at the Urban Institute, who noted that many factors determine costs in a given market. “I think that all else being equal, premiums will clearly be higher when there’s not that competition.”

And that means that for those people who live out in areas like Banjoville, they are going to be hit with higher premiums because of lack of competition.

In rural Baker County, Ga., where there is only one insurer, a 50-year-old shopping for a silver plan would pay at least $644.05 before federal subsidies. (Plans range in price and levels of coverage from bronze to platinum, with silver a middle option.) A 50-year-old in Atlanta, where there are four carriers, could pay $320.06 for a comparable plan. Federal subsidies could significantly reduce monthly premiums for people with low incomes.

Counties with one carrier are mostly concentrated in the South. Nearly all of the counties in Mississippi and Alabama, for example, are served by just one insurer, according to The Times’s analysis. Other states with scarce competition include Maine, West Virginia, North Carolina and Alaska.

That is a long article, and there is an interactive map at the link too, so take a look at it.

58548dea0a1af4177e71c9ee013059fbSince we are on the subject of healthcare, what about an article on madness…with a witchy twist: 7 Countries That Still Kill Accused Witches

You know how the long-ago witch hunts were stupid and hateful? What a relief those days are over.

Except they’re not. In many countries, people are still killed on suspicion of witchcraft. United Nations experts cautioned in 2009 that murders of women and children accused of sorcery were on the rise. Following are just a few of many examples from around the world.

1. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s religious police department has an official Anti-Witchcraft Unit that it dispatches to catch sorcerers and break their spells. In 2007, the Saudis executed an accused sorcerer. A woman awaiting the death penalty for alleged witchcraft died in prison.

Like the New England witch hunters of yore, those in Saudi Arabia use magic as a convenient excuse to silence inconvenient people. Accusations of sorcery have been leveled against foreign women working as domestics for Saudi families who charge their employers with sexual assault, according to Saudi Arabia expert Christoph Wilcke.

2. Tanzania

This east African country killed approximately 600 elderly women on charges of witchcraft just two years ago. The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life found a strong and pervasive belief in magic among Tanzanians. It sometimes leads to reverence rather than murder. One woman who claims to be a witch charges between $20 and $120 for services including medical cures and exorcisms — in a country where the average income is under two dollars a day.

The other five countries are more disturbing in their descriptions, so you can read them at the link if you like.

59be152a9d9296ccfee540684e2ffa2aHey, since that last article was on the morbid side, let’s have another: What would you choose for your last meal? Final food choices of executed criminals revealed… and they throw up a few oddball selections

Florida has revealed the final food choices of executed criminals, throwing up a number of eccentric final meals in the process.

While many of those spending their last day alive decide to go for the final indulgence of a heaving plate of fatty, fried food and a giant bowl of ice cream, others opt for more Spartan fare – requesting homemade sandwiches or just a simple cup of coffee.

That is one you need to click and read. Wow….

I want to bring you updates on a few other stories that we have discussed on the blog the past couple of weeks, and this will be in a link dump:

Macy’s joins Barneys in NYC ‘shop-and-frisk’ scandal | Reuters

New York civil rights leaders on Saturday decried the city’s brewing “shop-and-frisk” scandal, in which major retailers Barneys and Macy’s are accused of profiling black shoppers who say they were detained by police after buying luxury items.

Tennessee judge who barred baby name ‘Messiah’ rebuked by conduct panel for religious bias | The Raw Story

A magistrate court judge in Tennessee who forced a couple to change the name of their child from Messiah to Martin has been cited for religious bias by a state ethics panel and will face a disciplinary hearing.

Lu Ann Ballew, a child support magistrate in Cocke County of eastern Tennessee, had been settling a dispute about child support and the last name of Messiah Deshawn MCCullough, the child of Jaleesa Martin, and Jawaan McCullough. Neither parent had expressed interest in changing the child’s first name.

b89adc37ebe0fb06a85ff451748ef8bfThe Psychology of Online Comments : The New Yorker

Several weeks ago, on September 24th, Popular Scienceannounced that it would banish comments from its Web site. The editors argued that Internet comments, particularly anonymous ones, undermine the integrity of science and lead to a culture of aggression and mockery that hinders substantive discourse. “Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story,” wrote the online-content director Suzanne LaBarre, citing a recent study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as evidence. While it’s tempting to blame the Internet, incendiary rhetoric has long been a mainstay of public discourse. Cicero, for one, openly called Mark Antony a “public prostitute,” concluding, “but let us say no more of your profligacy and debauchery.” What, then, has changed with the advent of online comments?

Anonymity, for one thing. According to a September Pew poll, a quarter of Internet users have posted comments anonymously. As the age of a user decreases, his reluctance to link a real name with an online remark increases; forty per cent of people in the eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-old demographic have posted anonymously. One of the most common critiques of online comments cites a disconnect between the commenter’s identity and what he is saying, a phenomenon that the psychologist John Suler memorably termed the “online disinhibition effect.” The theory is that the moment you shed your identity the usual constraints on your behavior go, too—or, to rearticulate the 1993 Peter Steiner cartoon, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re not a dog.

I’ve got a few on Fukushima alone:

8 months, 10 mishaps: A look at Fukushima errors – The Washington Times, America’s Newspaper

The Global Threat of Fukushima » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Special Report: Help wanted in Fukushima: Low pay, high risks and gangsters | Reuters

With a Plant’s Tainted Water Still Flowing, No End to Environmental Fears – NYTimes.com

Some of those are long articles, so they will take some time.

467f8b89bac3307821e0c15b9528c1ebAnd to end this post today, a couple of stories with Boston Boomer in mind…

UK linguist reconstructs sounds of prehistoric language

What did our ancestors sound like in the 50th century B.C.? University of Kentucky linguistics lecturer Andrew M. Byrd examines ancient Indo-European languages (such as Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and Old English) and the language from which they derive, Proto-Indo-European, or PIE.

PIE is the prehistoric ancestor of hundreds of languages, including English, Spanish, Greek, Farsi, Armenian, and more. The language is typically thought to have been in use around 7,000 years ago, though some suspect it was spoken at an even earlier time.

According to some archaeologists and the majority of linguists like Byrd, the people who spoke PIE were located just to the north of the Black Sea and were likely the first to tame horses, and perhaps even to invent the wheel.

The primary focus of Byrd’s work is to understand what this language would have sounded when it was spoken millennia ago. Byrd says this all begins by looking at similarities in other languages.

“We start by gathering words, such as ‘king,’ from languages that we think are related and then find the common threads among them,” he said. “When you bring these words together, you’ll see that all of the words meaning ‘king’ or ‘ruler’ begin with something like an ‘r’ followed by a long vowel. Through examining trends in each , you can tell which parts of the word have changed over time, and working backward from that … you can peer into the past and get an idea of what PIE might have sounded like.”

I know that BB worked with language in children for her doctorate, so that article will be something cool for her to read about. This second one will be just a joke…because she is my number one when it comes to grammar…and boy do I need her help…

Test Your Grammar Know-How (Or Shame Your Friends) With This Quick Grammar Game | Geekosystem

Are you forever trolling the internet, commenting on posts with incorrect grammar? Do your friends consider you a “Grammar Nazi?” Well, you better put your money where your mouth is, and test your grammar skills using Grammatically Speaking, a quick little grammar game we found online!

Grammar

Grammatically Speaking tests all your grammar know-how, from proper punctuation, to the proper use of “that” or “which” in a sentence. Our favorite part of the test is that it shows you what percentage of users got each question wrong – for example, people are particularly terrible at “it’s” vs. “its” and when to use “me” vs. “I.”

It is fortunate that I have BB to come and fix my post when my grammar is way…way off the mark.  I tend to write like I talk, and then I never could grasp all that proper English stuff anyway.

This is all I have for you this morning. Have a wonderful day, and please leave a comment or two below…so, what are you thinking and reading about today?


Evening News Round-up: Informants, Conspiracies, and 500 Rumbles

Good Evening!

Yesterday, I started to read Kurt Eichenwald’s latest book, 500 Days Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars. I got up to page 137 before I called it a night and went to bed. It is heartbreaking to read about all the lost opportunities to intervene and possibly stop the attack, but the Bush administration just did not pay attention, or blatantly and cockishly refused to even hear the warnings from CSC…Counterterrorist Center.

Since I am only in the first part of the book, I will link to a review from the New York Times Book Review: ‘500 Days,’ by Kurt Eichenwald

Doug Mills/Associated Press

President Jacques Chirac of France and President George W. Bush, November 2001.

This book is misleadingly titled. “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars” seeks to provide a global account of the period after 9/11, leaping from a prison cell in Syria to the nightclub bombing in Bali, but it’s best and most informative when depicting how the Bush administration, and especially its lawyers, suffered a protracted nervous breakdown during that time. In that respect, it is an ambitious undertaking and a valuable resource.

[…]

With each piece of evidence, it becomes clearer that in late 2001 and in 2002, President Bush and Vice President Cheney had begun panicking. Mistaking rumors and lies fabricated by victims of torture as actionable information and elbowing aside skeptics, they gave rein to their fears that the worst was yet to come — and their hysteria spread to and infected parts of the national security ­establishment.

Give that review a quick read. I will give you two quotes from the book, that so far has struck me as very telling.

In discussing John Ashcroft and his “priorities,” of which terrorism was not even part of, Eichenwald writes about Tom Picard, the acting director of the FBI and Dale Watson, head FBI in charge of counterterrorism:

Despite Ashcroft’s apparent indifference, Pickard tried to hammer home the magnitude of the terrorist threat almost every time they met. But at this latest briefing, Pickard told Watson, the attorney general had gone off the rails.

“I was telling him about the high level of chatter and how it suggested something big was about to happen,” Picard told Watson. “And then he interrupted me and said, ‘I don’t want to hear about that anymore.”

This was two months prior to the attacks. And, one of many warnings about bin Laden and his big plans within the last 12 months…since Bush became the Republican nominee and received his first intelligence briefing.

The other quote is shortly after the attacks, when one of Ashcroft’s top aides  is caught reading a book in his office:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam. Omigod. That is not a good sign.

Again, I am only at the beginning but wow…and that is just a couple of examples from the Department of Justice. We are not even mentioning Cheney and his crew.

I just finished reading Eichenwald’s earlier book, The Informant, and if you are up for some real unbelievably f’d up cooperating witnesses, involved in price fixing and embezzlement, then please read the book. (The movie with Matt Damon does not really touch the surface…)

Here are a couple of reviews for the book:

BOOKS OF THE TIMES; A Crime Story of the White-Collar Kind – New York Times

Fox in the Henhouse – New York Times

And a two-hour interview with Eichenwald: Booknotes :: Watch The Informant Part One and Booknotes :: Watch The Informant Part Two.

Anyway, I also sat through the entire Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart Debate. It was awesome…if you have not seen it, you need to.

Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart Debate In ‘Rumble In The Air-Conditioned Auditorium’

Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly: The Rumble : The New Yorker

Just one more link for you tonight, this is sad…Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman split after 30 years

Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlmanare breaking up.

A spokesman for DeVito says the couple is separating after 30 years of marriage. Publicist Stan Rosenfield offered no other details.

DeVito and Perlman married in 1982 and have three adult children. The couple worked together on TV’s “Taxi” from 1978 to 1982.

Together, the couple established the production company Jersey Films, which counts “Pulp Fiction,” ”Erin Brockovich” and “Out of Sight” among its credits.

Danny DeVito-Rhea Perlman split catches Hollywood off guard

‘Stunned,” “shocked,” “totally surprised” and “so sorry to hear it” — just a few of the comments veteran Hollywood insiders were using Monday as news broke Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman had separated after 30 years of marriage.

“For Hollywood — hell, for anywhere in America — breaking up after 30 years is practically unheard of,” said one of the biggest producers in the entertainment business, who has worked with both DeVito and Perlman. “I am devastated to hear about this. They are both good friends and will remain so. I’m just sorry they apparently were unable to overcome whatever issues they had.”A second Tinseltown source who recently worked with DeVito speculated the couple’s work has kept them apart, “as often is the case out here.” Beyond confirming the split, DeVito’s spokesman,

I’ve read rumors of a possible connection to DiVito’s alcoholism, but I guess we will find out later on…

This is an open thread.


Sunday Reads: Full Moons and Uranus

Good Morning

There has been a lot of “space” news this weekend. So our first few links will focus on the skies…Did you see the Harvest Moon last night? What was interesting about this Harvest Moon was its relationship to Uranus. (Ha….) No Seriously! If you missed it, here is a video from the SLOOH space camera.

When you gaze at the full moon this weekend, think of farmers working late into the evening to gather their crop, because that’s how the Harvest Moongot its name.

The Harvest Moon allows farmers at the peak of the current harvest season to stay in the fields longer than usual, working by the moon‘s light. It rises around sunset, but also — and more importantly — the moon seems to appear at nearly the same time each successive night.

Uranus Rings Tilted
Near-infrared views of Uranus reveal its otherwise faint ring system, highlighting the extent to which the planet is tilted.
CREDIT: Lawrence Sromovsky, (Univ. Wisconsin-Madison), Keck Observatory

Uranus’ atmosphere is dominated primarily by hydrogen and helium, with a small amount of methane that gives the “ice giant” its bluish-green tint. The planet has a ring system and 27 known moons. It’s also tilted so far that it essentially orbits the sun on its side; researchers think the planet may have been knocked askew by a collision with another large body long ago.

If skywatchers wish to see Uranus through their own telescopes Saturday night, they should scan just below the moon and look for the only green “star” in the field of view, Slooh officials said.

Hmmmm, I never thought Uranus would be described as a bright green light in the night sky. (Okay I am being way to infantile here.)

In other worlds news, Curiosity found an old river bed on Mars. NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed on Martian Surface – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA’s Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence — images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels — is the first of its kind.

Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream’s flow.

Best View of Goulburn Scour

“From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep,” said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. “Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we’re actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it.”

Go check out all the photos and more information at that link to Nasa’s JPL site.

Now on to some news from our own Earthly planet.

First let’s go with a bit of intimidation….there is a woman who is getting a first hand look at an Attack from the PLUBs, I think I would prefer Martians any day. Intimidation: Now It’s a First Amendment Right! | RH Reality Check

For anti-choicers, the right to freedom of speech is like a game of Calvin-ball, the “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip “sport” in which all rules could be revised, changed, updated, and discarded depending on what it took to win. They claim that freedom of speech trumps literally every other right, as long as it is done under the guise of “saving babies.”

It’s “freedom of speech,” for example, to “inconvenience” Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando CEO Jenna Tosh by picketing her home. Tosh told the WinterPark, Florida, city council that she felt “threatened and ambushed” when anti-choicers picketed her home, and the council passed a short-term ordinance forbidding assembly on a residential property.

Of course, there were some folks who disagreed with this action.

 After all, it was just one woman being intimidated. In an op-ed written by the Florida Sentinel, the paper argues:

Winter Park modeled its measure after ordinances that already had passed constitutional muster, so we aren’t arguing legal merits. But we do question the knee-jerk response to a single citizen’s complaint—precipitated by the distribution of pro-life handouts and, nearly a week later, some nonviolent picketing. And we question the need for a new law when laws exist to protect citizens against protests that grow unruly. And we question why government officials are so quick to crack down on freedom of speech. Imagine the outcry if commissioners had tried to go after the Second Amendment. Having to push past protesters toting signs that read “Jenna Tosh kills babies and hurts women” certainly is unpleasant. We sympathize with her. However, her need to avoid disturbing, anti-abortion expressions outside her home shouldn’t trump the rights of the many to exercise their First Amendment rights within public areas in residential areas.

Is it merely “unpleasant” to have people picket your neighborhood in a group, using your name and calling you a baby-killer? Does making someone feel unsafe in her own home not matter if it somehow infringes on the right of a group to make that person feel intimidated? And where exactly do “free speech” advocates draw the line for what constitutes “unruly?”

The article also mentions the courts reactions to these intimidation tactics.

it seems as though courts are bending over backwards toignore the physical intimidation involved in many of the anti-choice protesters’ activities. In a recent FACE act case involving an anti-choice activist at EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the judge decided that touching an escort is just another way of expressing “freedom of speech.”

“In his attempt to continue talking to the patient, [anti-choice “sidewalk counselor” David Hamilton ‘pushed [clinic escort Jane Fitts’s] arm down slightly,’” [U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman] found.

But the judge said the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), requires the prosecution to show Hamilton used force with the intent to injure or intimidate someone because that person was seeking or providing reproductive health services.

There are questions for a jury concerning whether any contact “was used intentionally to injure, intimidate, or interfere” and “whether Fitts was indeed providing reproductive health services.”

The judge suggested it was possible that Fitts was not an “escort” at all but would be “more accurately characterized as a counter-protester.”

“U.S. courts are charged with protecting the freedoms of all American citizens,” said Cody. “Sidewalk counselors have the same rights as other people.”

How is pushing an escort’s arm down in order to make contact with a patient trying to access abortion services not an attempt to “interfere” with or “intimidate” both the escort and the woman seeking a termination?

Anti-choicers don’t appear to “have the same rights as other people.” They claim more rights, supra-rights, a secretly granted set of rights that appear to trump the rights of those who seek reproductive health care, those who provide it, and those who assist in ensuring the first two can meet each other without hindrance. If the right to freedom of speech outweighs the pursuit of happiness—i.e.: the ability to access care, the ability to walk the streets without unwanted physical contact, the right to feel safe in your own home, then how does anyone else have any freedom at all?

(I thought that was a great post btw…that was why I used so much of it.)

Hey if not intimidation, lets talk disenfranchised voters?  Warning, this link goes to Fox News…but I thought it was an interesting spin on the Voter ID laws and the push from the GOP to make it hard as hell for Dems to “get out the vote.”  Drop in Ohio voter registration, especially in Dem strongholds, mirrors nationwide trend | Fox News

Speaking of party lines…The Bottom Line on Party ID | TPM Editors Blog  That link will take you to a short post with a rather big graph. Take a look, it is interactive!

There is a real good post on Juan Cole this morning, written by Alice K. Ross:  Obama set precedent with Drone Killings for Romney to become Terminator-in-Chief (Ross) | Informed Comment

President Obama’s personal involvement in selecting the targets of covert drone strikes means he risks effectively handing a ‘loaded gun’ to Mitt Romney come November, says the co-author of a new report aimed at US policymakers.

‘If Obama leaves, he’s leaving a loaded gun: he’s set up a programme where the greatest constraint is his personal prerogative. There’s no legal oversight, no courtroom that can make [the drone programme] stop. A President Romney could vastly accelerate it,’ said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at the Columbia Law School.

That is just a taste, you go read the rest of it at the link.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution broke the story about the cheating scandal last year, they have a new investigative report that you should read.

More cheating scandals inevitable, as states can’t ensure test…

The stain of cheating spread unchecked across 44 Atlanta schools before the state finally stepped in and cleaned it up. But across the country, oversight remains so haphazard that most states cannot guarantee the integrity of their standardized tests, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.

Poor oversight means that cheating scandals in other states are inevitable. It also undermines a national education policy built on test scores, which the states and local districts use to fire teachers, close schools and direct millions of dollars in funding.

The AJC’s survey of the 50 state education departments found that many states do not use basic test security measures designed to stop cheating on tests. And most states make almost no attempt to screen test results for irregularities.

Please take a look at that article.

I was going to post a link to this post from WhoWhatWhere, but Susie Madrak also read it and wrote about it…so here is her take on the piece. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Nuclear Standoff With Iran | Crooks and Liars

Over at WhoWhatWhy.com, Christian Stork has a thorough analysis debunking the most common myths propagated about the West’s nuclear stand-off with Iran. It’s all so familiar, isn’t it? I know if I think really hard, I can figure it out. Oh, wait – it’s just like the buildup to both wars in Iraq! And of course both times, the media did their best stenography impression.

That’s why stories like this are so important. In his “Idiot’s Guide to Iran and the Bomb,” Stork lists 8 important lessons for all people to keep in mind when surveying the media landscape around Iran’s nuclear program.

[…]

The first lesson taught, with exhaustive documentation, is that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. Considering how hard the mainstream media is working to convince us otherwise, it might be hard to grasp. But that’s why stories like this tutorial are needed. Click here to see the rest of what Stork calls his “introductory course in intellectual self-defense”

Go and check it out.

I will end this post with a couple of articles about history, I know Dakinikat will like this first a story about an ancient burial site in Denmark.

Ancient burial shroud offers up surprise

The National Museum of Denmark

This 2,800-year-old Lusehoj textile made from imported nettles was found in a grave along with the bones from what may be a Scandinavian man, scientists reported on Friday.

Ancient scraps of fabric found in a grave in Denmark are not made of cultivated flax as once believed, but instead are woven from imported wild nettles, suggesting the grave’s inhabitant may have traveled far for burial.

This discovery, announced Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, casts a new light on the textile trade in Bronze Age Europe, said study researcher Ulla Mannering, an archaeologist at the University of Copenhagen.

“Since the Stone Age, they had very well-developed agriculture and technology for producing linen textiles,” Mannering told LiveScience. “So it’s really unusual that a society which has established agriculture would also take in material from things that are not of the normal standardized agricultural production” — in other words, wild plants.

[…]

“The fibers we get from the European nettle are very, very fine and soft and shiny, and we often say this is a sort of prehistoric silk textile,” Mannering said. (Silk, made from insect cocoons, is known for its shimmery texture.)

Previous analysis pegged the Danish fabric as woven from flax, a plant widely cultivated in the region. But along with nanophysicist Bodil Holst of the University of Bergen in Norway, Mannering and her colleagues used advanced methods to reanalyze the scraps of cloth. By studying the fiber orientation as well as the presence of certain crystals found in plants, the researchers were able to learn that the fabric is not flax at all, but nettle, a group of plants known for the needlelike stingers that line their stems and leaves.

Nor is the nettle local, Mannering said. Different soil regions contain different variations of elements. The variation of one of these elements, strontium, found in the fabric, was not local to Denmark, suggesting the plants the textile was made from grew elsewhere.

There are a few regions that match the strontium profile, the researchers found, but the most likely candidate is southwest Austria. The bronze burial urn holding the remains is from Austria, Mannering said, and it makes sense that the fabric might be too.

Hey, what do you know… he was a traveling man?

Despite these imported grave goods, the remains appear to be those of a Danish man, Mannering said. The personal objects in the grave, such as two razors, suggest he was a Scandinavian, albeit perhaps a well-traveled one, she said.

“Maybe he died in Austria and was wrapped in this Austrian urn and Austrian textile and was brought back to Denmark in this condition and then put in a big burial mound,” Mannering said. “The personal objects that were placed inside the urn together with this textile and the bones indicate that he is a male of Scandinavian origin, but it doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have died abroad.”

And, lastly this blast from the past….my son will be very excited about this link…he loves the Beatles. I think many of you will appreciate it too.  October 1962: the month that modern culture was born

Photo of Beatles

The Beatles at the Cavern Club, Liverpool, in 1962. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives

On 5 October 1962, a new sound filled the nation’s airwaves. It was raw, simple, direct and sexy. “Love, love me do,” sang Lennon and McCartney, “You know I love you.” The Beatles had arrived, and a new generation had a new soundtrack to their lives. Seventeen years after VE Day and VJ Day, the war was finally over. Nothing – in culture, in society, in the everyday world itself – would ever be quite the same again.

When, exactly, did the 1960s began? Was it when JFK announced he was running for president (31 January 1960)? When Harold Macmillan acknowledged “the winds of change” sweeping through colonial Africa (3 February)? Or when the chain-smoking Princess Margaret announced her engagement to a commoner, photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, on 26 February? Or was it when Kennedy finally won the US election, by a whisker, on 9 November?

Some would go further, and deny that any kind of transition occurred until the new American president had, thrillingly, been sworn in on the icy-blue morning of 20 January 1961. Until then, they say, the west was still in the grip of the sclerotic gerontocracy represented by Eisenhower and Khrushchev. One thing is certain: the 1950s took a while to pass into the limbo of lost time.

Enjoy that article, and have a wonderful Sunday Morning!


Who Exactly Is The Enemy On Our Doorstep?

It’s hard to keep up with the outrageous statements and positions of various 2012 presidential candidates.  One might reasonably ask: Who let the loons out?

As offensive as all these assaults, affronts and crazy talk have been, there’s been something else operating in the background, which begs the question:

What’s up with the joint military/police exercises being conducted in our cities?

The question lingers in the air, a thick mist of doubt laced with a pinch of paranoia.  We live in an era that breeds both with incredible ease.

On the heels of the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA’s] passage, replete with an indefinite detention clause that President Obama signed onto, against the security advice of the FBI and NSA, it’s a question that leads even the level-headed to ponder the rhyme and reason of military/police training maneuvers inside American cities.

In late January, Los Angeles was an operational site.  In August of last year, Boston and earlier exercises were held in Miami and Little Rock.  The purpose?  According to official statements:

This will be routine training conducted by military personnel, designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments, prepare forces for upcoming overseas deployments, and meet mandatory training certification requirements.

Hummm.  I thought that’s what military bases were for?  And forgive me, I don’t see anything ‘routine’ about this.  I grew up near Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base in NJ.  We had plenty of planes and helicopters in the sky and military equipment trucking down the highways.

But military exercises in our living space?  Never.

We’ve seen the images from Greece, the Cradle of Democracy in flames, the populace pushed to extremes by financial/political deals that insist on further tightening of the economic thumbscrews.  These remedies never apply to those inflicting the misery.  But for the general population?  Pain is good.  Could these draconian prescriptions and subsequent reactions happen here?

Lest we forget, we’ve seen the prologue. Here:

I’ve written before about the creeping militarization of local police force units, where routine calls are turned into SWAT team events, complete with wartime accouterments—uniforms, weapons and vehicles.  And then there are the drones added to our airspace for additional surveillance and security, features that some would tell us are simply the next reasonable step in effective police work. The President has signed the FAA Reauthorization Bill, which among other things authorizes drone utilization in American airspace.  The Agency projects 30,000 drones in operation by 2020.

And now our cities are hosting military and police force exercises, presumably to prepare for overseas’ deployment.

The local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles started with this lead:

If you notice a heavy military presence around downtown Los Angeles this week, don’t be alarmed — it’s only a drill.

Whistling past the graveyard?  Color me suspicious but I find this whole concept disturbing.

Former Police Chief Norm Stamper, a 35-year police force veteran who oversaw the disastrous response to the 1999 WTO Battle in Seattle, has been vocal in his concern about militarizing our domestic police forces. He takes himself to task in going along with the brass in Seattle, where police took a hard-ass stand that resulted in injury and considerable property damage.  Instead of the cautionary tale that Seattle might have provided, the paramilitary mindset was further cemented into place after 9/11.  The Department of Homeland Security funded cities and small towns across America for ‘terrorist preparedness’ training and equipment. And those small, unlikely terrorist targets took those funds and armed their Police Departments to the teeth.

To the horror of many, we watched this equipment and personnel turn against Americans during the Occupy Wall St. protests, most spectacularly in Oakland, CA.

Stamper blames this on:

The paramilitary bureaucracy and the culture it engenders—a black-and-white world in which police unions serve above all to protect the brotherhood—is worse today than it was in the 1990s. Such agencies inevitably view protesters as the enemy. And young people, poor people and people of color will forever experience the institution as an abusive, militaristic force—not just during demonstrations but every day, in neighborhoods across the country.

He also cites the military model adopted by police bureaucrats, an archaic attitude that fosters a dedication to authoritative regulations rather than an officer’s behavior in the streets.  And the senseless ‘War on Drugs’ that adds an overblown righteousness to the mayhem, a policy that criminalizes non-violent drug use and imprisons more of our citizens, ratio to population, than anywhere else on the planet.  The US represents 5% of the world’s population, yet we have 25% of the world’s prisoners.

Let that sink in!

Five percent of the world’s population = Twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population.

What the hell are we doing?  To our own people.

Shortly before leaving for Christmas, I’d read the announcement about the exercise in Los Angeles, scheduled and carried out in late January.  Frankly, I had no idea that these other ‘exercises’ had ever taken place.

Here’s a description [after the fact] of the ‘training exercise’ in Boston:

Land chopper on roof

U.S. military commandos practiced raids in the shuttered Agassiz Elementary School last month, including a nighttime helicopter landing on the school’s roof, the Gazette has learned.

The elite special forces training was done without notice to nearby residents. No live ammo or explosives were involved and safety measures were taken, according to military spokesperson Kim Tiscione.

A vaguely worded July 25 press release from the Mayor’s Office announced citywide “military training exercises,” including helicopters, through Aug. 5. In fact, the exercises were top-secret training for the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), whose commandos recently killed terrorist Osama bin Laden, Tiscione told the Gazette.

“I know a lot of it can look really different when it’s in your own back yard,” Tiscione said of the training, which included the two-minute helicopter landing around 9 p.m. on July 28. “Safety is absolutely something we are concerned about.”

Safety is of prime concern?  One would think local residents would have been thoroughly informed and prepared before a helicopter was landed on the roof of an abandoned school.  Elsewhere the ‘helicopters’ were identified as a Black Hawks, buzzing among familiar business locations, always at night.

Brian O’Connell, a resident of Jamaica Plain had the following to say, following the Boston maneuvers:

Our great nation (which as you know, doesn’t tax the super rich or corporations) is currently engaged in a legislative battle royal over spending priorities. Meanwhile, the estimated price tag for our wars in the Middle East is $4 TRILLION. We close down schools in heavily populated urban areas and use the space for Special Forces raids while our unaccountable elected leaders pander behind close doors with the military industrial complex and use our communities as a commando training site. I find all of this obscene, and I know that there are many people who feel the same.

Correct me if I’m wrong but where are these ‘future deployments’ envisioned when the Iraq war has been officially ended and Afghanistan will be drawing down next year?  I’m all for defending the country but who or what are these combined forces defending it from?  Are these training exercises for a possible Iran invasion?  The drumbeat for war has been incessant, while most Americans have little appetite for another round of senseless, endless conflict.  Or are these staging operations preparing for something else?

Chris Hedges, never reluctant to criticize a system he considers thoroughly corrupt and acting against the public’s interest [not to mention Constitutional law] had this to say:

And I think, without question, the corporate elites understand that things, certainly economically, are about to get much worse. I think they’re worried about the Occupy movement expanding. And I think that, in the end–and this is a supposition–they don’t trust the police to protect them, and they want to be able to call in the Army.

I sincerely hope the man is wrong.  Unfortunately, Hedges’ has been a modern day prophet, predicting the corporate takeover of the United States that we, citizens-at-large are beginning to recognize everywhere we look.

Which begs two questions:

  • What’s up with the military/police exercises being conducted in our cities?
  • And would we be prepared for the truth, whatever that might be?

I stumbled across several quotes the other day, two of which had me rear back for a second.  So, I’ll leave you with the following:

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. [Goethe]

And,

Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world. [Henry Kissinger]

And here’s one of my own:

Better to vigorously question any official statement than to merely nod and fall back to sleep.