Archive for May, 2009

memorial day

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Memorial Day – an accounting of the battle of Ia Drang, cica 1965.

Not really the holiday BBQ and beer type material.

what you do is who you are

Monday, May 18th, 2009

2009, 13″ x 16″ x 2″, oil on wood, (click on image for enlargement)

super fly (paper) strategy

Friday, May 15th, 2009

forgiveness not, 2007, 11″ x 18″, oil and enamel on wood

Like the previous statement from (the previously anonoymus) Major Mathew Alexander, I’ll again post his latest statement in full, and highlight something additional that we didn’t know before:

If We’re Going to Reveal More Memos. . . .

by: MajorMatthew

Fri May 15, 2009 at 15:06:22 PM EDT

( – promoted by Brandon Friedman)

Former VP Dick Cheney has requested the release of additional memos showing that torture and abuse saved American lives by preventing terrorist attacks. If the Obama Administration decides to release these memos, then I suggest they also release statistics from Iraq showing the number of foreign fighters that were recruited because of our policy of torture and abuse. It was tracked. I know because I saw the slides and because I heard captured foreign fighters state this day in and day out. The government can also release the statistics that show that 90% of suicide bombers in Iraq were these same foreign fighters. These foreign fighters killed hundreds, if not thousands, of American soldiers. After these revelations, Americans can judge whether or not a policy of torture and abuse kept us safe. Unfortunately, we’ll never be able to evaluate the damage that was done to past or future interrogations. As I experienced firsthand, detainees were less likely to cooperate when they viewed us as hypocrites. We can’t establish the trust that is required to convince a detainee to cooperate unless we live up to the principles that we preach.

I had one detainee in Iraq, a previous Al Qaida fighter, who provided me with all the information he knew willingly without me having to run an interrogation approach. He told me that Al Qaida had accused him of being a mole and tortured him before we rescued him. He then proceeded to say that the reason he was going to cooperate was because we didn’t torture him and because of that, he knew everything that he’d been told about us by Al Qaida was wrong.

Before 9/11, the protection of American soldiers from terrorist attacks was a priority for our country. Consider our responses to the Beirut Bombing, Khobar Towers, and the USS Cole. When we talk about keeping Americans safe

from terrorist attacks, we need to include all Americans, especially those that serve in uniform.

I’m pretty sure that this is the first we’ve heard about this – that the U.S. military has been tracking the number of foreign fighters that were recruited because of our policy of torture and abuse. Having these statistics released would go a long way in settling this notion “that torture works”, and “torture saves lives” currently being promoted by Dick Cheney. Whats more, seeing that these statistics were gathered post Abu Ghraib, during the Majors service there, it would follow that the statistic gathering continues to tract the period since interrogation reforms were put into place. Could it be that when the overt policy of torture was reversed, we might also see a similar decrease in foreign fighters being motivated by torture? And could this period also correspond to the loss of fortune and roll back, of the post 2006 al-Qaed in Iraq, that is usually seen to be the exclusive result of the so called “surge”. It would be a supreme and tragic irony should the tracking of these statistics actually show that the main attraction to Iraq for foreign fighters was dreamed up by some Super Fly wanna be fly paper strategizing nit wit in DC, that in the end killed more Iraqis and Americans than the terrorists, during the same time period.

pelosi fesses up

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Associated Press reports today, quoting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

At one point, Pelosi charged that the CIA “misleads us all the time.”

Republicans have been successful at getting the media to change the focus to Pelosi on the contentious torture debate, and many top Democrats have called it a “distraction.” There’s also been a lot of grumbling about the CIA report about Congressional notification, which wasn’t as definitive as it was originally presented.

Pelosi said she learned second-hand that waterboarding was being used. She was told that someone else was briefed that waterboarding was being used months after the briefing where she was told that it was not being used.

“The CIA was misleading the Congress,” Pelosi charged.

Big surprise, what Pelosi is admitting is that the government are little more than what I’ve been calling – gophers. Wonder when she’ll get around to admitting that the military is misleading the Congress, or that Wall St. is misleading the Congress.

hate crimes legislation, who needs it?

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

I ended the last post on how less government does not equal more freedom, by inferring government advocacy should and can increase freedom. David Neiwert at Orcinus has a post up on the pending federal hate crimes bill that is a good example – of both how government can increase freedom, and where the resistance to such an increase (in freedom) can be found. Neiwert points out what the essential impetus behind the bill is:

“Bias-crime laws aren’t merely about “affirming the equality of all people”: they’re about preserving very real, basic freedoms — freedom of association, freedom of travel, the freedom to live where we choose, and most of all the freedom from fear — for every American.”

The bill seeks to affirm these freedoms through amplifying the severity of a crime should that crime be motivated as an affront against the “universal human traits” of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference on behalf of the victim. This bill would would act as a deterrent against crimes that single out a member of any such group for making the victim into public example for the purpose of intimidating the entire community of such people with the threat that this can happen to you too.

Seeing how, according to FBI statistics, hate crimes against Christians rank second in religiously motivated hate crimes, one would think that the republican right wing would be front and center for the passage of this bill. This should be especially true considering much of their famous victimization syndrome is characterized as an attack upon their Christian beliefs, and this bill would do much to protect their freedom of belief. Oddly though, this isn’t the case. And conversely, they have taken to an offensive against the bill, labeling it’s content as legislating against “thought crimes”, creating “unequal protection” from the law, and even going so far as to postulate that pedifiles (as a group) could find safe haven protection in the law, while veterans (as a group) could not, and that therefore the law protects pedifiles and punishes veterans. While David Neiwert goes on to untangle this nonsense (in the post), whats interesting to me is how the resistance to the legislation fits into the overall narrative driving the less (powerful, more gopher) government = the more freedom rubric.

As mentioned, it’s astonishing that the prospects for reinforcing protections that serve religious freedom would be rejected so out of hand. Unless of course, that somehow supporting the law, even with its tangible (self) benefits, can be seen as a sign of violating a larger principal, that any affirmations of government, will act ultimately to undermine the other networks in competition for power; the religious, economic, military, and aristocratic elite, simply by affirming (any) authority to the government. While at the same time, supporting the legislation would seem also to undermine their exceptionalist posture by allowing their position of authority to be normalized on an equal status as all the “others”.

Obviously then , from this perspective government is eschewed as a force that erodes their authority through mediation and equalizing power under the law. The abilities of business interests, the clergy, the military, and the aristocracy to craft cultural authority that’s facilitated at the expense of equality, fairness, and freedom are dependent on a government that is impotent to answer to the needs of the many if it threatens the power of the few. Even and in spite of relief and protection offered in lieu of their most ballyhooed vulnerabilities.

Which leads one to surmise, that the source of their fears – religious persecution – was bullshit all along.

less government does not equal more freedom

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The last several posts regarding what the government has been up to on the economy and the use of torture call into question, and provides anecdotal evidence for, a much larger issue of what the function of government itself is. This question appears to be contentious in American society more so than other societies. The Republican Party, and the Democratic Party to a lesser degree, have portrayed the issue of what character the government takes, into more a matter of less government – rather than what (and how) the government should assume as its role in society. Without getting into the myriad differentials involved, this state of affairs has generally led to the widespread popular assumption that somehow, less government equals more freedom. And by inference, any movement toward bigger government is a move toward socialism , and any move toward socialism is a progressive move toward less individual freedom, that ultimately devolves into a communist tyranny that is devoid of all vestiges of individual freedom. This notion and its inferences, while endemic, are patently absurd. And are in all likelihood the logical product of influences that themselves, are busy at work undermining individual freedom, but because they are not an obvious part of government, remain hidden from view.

What remains missing from this picture is the entire history of human beings, in that human history is a social history with a long evolution in the development of social institutions that broker the social intercourse between human beings. Throughout that social history there is no contrary evidence that human beings were ever anything like free roaming free individuals, especially in the first several million years of history, where there was never anything resembling government. Instead of government, the arbitrators of human social interaction were the same as it ever was, and still is; those that explain (for profit) the meaning of life, religion, those that plunder the wealth of others, armies, those that regulate the supply of wealth, currency dealers and bankers, and those that arbitrate these interactions, warlords and self appointed elite authority. The development of government in this scheme of things, comes as a welcome relief, as it puts mediation and regulation, in lieu of the prevailing codes of morality, on all the other power modalities and what they can do regarding the individuals of a society. Indeed, the function of government is to regulate. In this sense, governments act to empower and protect the individual in relation to other powers in society at large. With the (generally speaking) net effect of increasing an individuals freedom, as opposed to leaving them at the mercy of the unregulated other powers that are designed to prey upon them.

A society that advocates less government, instead of better government, is a society willing to to subjugate its individuals, without regulation, to the whims, demands, and exploitations of the longstanding arbitrators of the church, the military, and the economic elite – often in conjunction with one another. Because if government isn’t the arbitrator of human social interaction, the other powers are none to willing to take on the job themselves. To advocate less government is essentially to advocate for a backward looking failed state, with all its notorious and backward, social trimmings and implications. And much less freedom.

feeding the gophers

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009


Image ht to Behr Rake’s Blog

Crossposted from Firedoglake

Over $42 Million Paid to Lobbyists Working to Defeat “Cramdown” in 1Q 2009

By: Jane Hamsher Tuesday May 5, 2009 6:59 am

digg it

A review of lobbying reports filed indicates that finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) interests paid over $42 million to lobbyists who worked to defeat mortgage write-down in bankruptcy (cramdown) in the first quarter of 2009, as well as other anti-consumer legislation such as capping credit card interest rates.

Sixty organizations filed lobbying reports for the first quarter of 2009 indicating that they had paid lobbyists to work on the issue (see chart). Because lobbying reports don’t break down how much money was devoted to lobbying on a specific issue it’s not possible to break down a total spent on cramdown alone, but lobbying against H.R. 1106, H.R. 200 and S. 61, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act was a priority for those organizations and lobbyists listed.

Organizations that lobbyied on the issue, but whose lobbying efforts in 1Q were significantly devoted to non-banking issues (The Chamber of Commerce, John Deere, General Electric) were not included in the total.

The legislation, which would have allowed judges to write down mortgage principle to current market values, could have played a significant role in stemming the foreclosure crisis. It is estimated that it would have prevented 20% of foreclosures at no cost to the taxpayers. Recently, Senator Richard Durbin gave a speech on the floor of the Senate where he indicated the banks “own us.” He also indicated that between now and 2012, some 8 million homeowners may lose their houses in foreclosure.

Gopher is as gopher does,

Gopher does as gophers told


Jane at Firedoglake, informs us also that:

One of the key votes against “cramdown” in the Senate came, surprisingly, from Democrat Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. According to an FEC lobbying report filed by the American Council of Life Insurers, Dorgan’s wife Kimberly worked for them as a lobbyist to defeat the measure during the first quarter of 2009 (PDF).

credit card fraud

Monday, May 4th, 2009

A few days ago, the Congress passed the credit card reform bill 357 to 70, and is expected to pass in the Senate soon. This is basically a joke bill designed to make the legislature and the president look like they are doing something on behalf of the American people, and at the same time, appear to putting pressure on the banking industry to bend a little bit in lieu of the hundreds of billions they’ve already received from the taxpayers via the bailouts. In a tiny nutshell all this bill does is; prohibit those less than 18 years old from getting a card, makes the fine print disclosures bigger print disclosures, and introduces a 45 day advance notice of when they double or triple your interest rate without cause.

Oh, can’t ya hear that whistle blowin’, the big change express must be comin’ down the pike! And just in time, now that more people than ever are living off their credit cards, with the average household card dept closing in on eleven thousand dollars, interest rates in the high 38% area, and defaults at an all time high. And there’s absolutely nothing in this bill that will have any effect – what so ever – on any of this. So what, if you get a months prior notice of a big interest hike, it’s not like it’s being delayed, modified, or reigned in – but now, courtesy of your awesome big change government you now get the shock a month in advance, at no extra charge. BFD.

It could have been different. There were at least three separate amendments aimed at the more critical issue of the interest rates themselves, that would have put caps on the amount of interest that the banks can charge. One was set at 12%, one at12% + prime, and one was set at 18%. But Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services Barney Frank thought otherwise, and and saw fit to allow no such teeth to be grafted into the toothless Democratic gopher government. I dunno’, maybe it was the freighting prospects of winning with less than the 357 to 70 squeaker finish, that they begged for the extraction instead of the crown. Or perhaps, it could have been that bad habits die hard – especially if bad habits happen to be your bread and butter. But more that likely it was, as Dick Durban said recently ” And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.

No shit.

I suppose its never dawned on these geniuses that capping the interest rates would, in an economy reeling with dept, and at no extra cost – pour billions of dollars back into the real economy, that would save millions of jobs, and give relief to millions that might otherwise default on their mortgages, car loans, school loans, and yes, default their credit card loans.

But then again, gopher is as gopher does,

And gopher does as gophers told.

the limits of levity

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Ретроспектива (125 фотографий), photo:94

nothing further to add to this.

torture and domestic politics

Friday, May 1st, 2009

forgiveness not, 2007, 11″ x 14″ x 2″ oil on wood

This poll, released last year but is being noticed recently;

is interesting on several fronts. It shows that 35% of secular people think torture can often or sometimes be justified against suspected terrorists, while on the same count, 49% to 56% of people with religious affiliations think that torture can be justified. While on the one hand, it’s pretty disgusting that so many people in the U.S.A. think torture of a suspected (and not necessarily a proven) terrorist is acceptable – it should come as no surprise that the supposed high moral religious class should be way more accepting of torture than the supposed morally rudderless class of liberal atheist secularists. As it also should come as no surprise that those making the most fuss in favor of torture are the right wing political class. And why is that?

The right wing political class is now under enormous pressure, as they have lost their most important means of faux political patronage, that has gone up in smoke with the financial meltdown. The promise that unregulated free markets would produce an unlimited and prosperous ownership society, that all would ultimately benefit from, has turned out to be a massive ponzi-scheme economy where the only the exclusively rich would be allowed to prosper at the expense of everyone else. While in one sense, if not the plan all along, then, at least a logical consequence of what 30 years of economic deregulation would produce. Which in its success, also happened to explode its mythic political essence that gave the idea its wings in the first place. And so suddenly being broke, unemployed, and living in a non-running Winnebago under a freeway off ramp offers little enthusiasm for another all night bender at the ownership bar and casino.

All of which leaves the religious authoritarian orientated inherited obligation family man (whom the right relies upon) with little recourse in maintaining some semblance of faith in the status quo of order and structure – up until torture becomes an issue. Because torture, as it is being used, is nothing more than an elevated form of punishment. Punishment for what the terrorists did, what they know and refuse to tell us, and as an unambiguous message to all other would be terrorists, that we can and will inflict this punishment for whatever other reasons we desire because we can, because we are the authority. This is something easily assimilated by the authoritarian oriented right wing rubes as being yet another symbolic affront on their own personal role as an authority figure. Because in such a traditional family structure that is inherited, as opposed to one that is negotiated upon, punishment for failure to conform is paramount in maintaining structure. The debate to banish torture as a political statement follows on the heels of the failure of the free market ideology and is intertwined with it as seen from the vantage and preservation authority worship.

If this were all not so, then next time you run into such a proponent of torture, ask them whether the Philadelphia cop killer who killed for a political agenda, Army Reservist Joshua Cartwright who killed two deputies, former Bush campaign worker Dannie Baker who opened up on Chilean exchange students, or the liberal hating Unitarian Church killer, or any number of other right wing suspected domestic terrorists who have commited acts of terrorism against unsuspecting individuals for political reasons, should be tortured. Tortured because of what they did, tortured because what they refuse to tell us what they know and plan, or tortured simply because we have the authority to do so. Ten to one there will be excuses, because….

Failure to enforce the right to use any means to achieve and maintain either their inherited unfair advantage and position of authority and the right to punish non-conformity, by any means to such authority are both essential to the republican right wing narrative as spelled out in association to so called “values” voters. And both methods have been dragged into the sunlight kicking and screaming and exposed for what they are. Assaults upon humanity for the benefit of the few.