A U.N. Human Rights panel (hilarious as that is to begin with) has just determined that the effective detention of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London) by American lapdogs Britain and Sweden violates international law. It is noted that this is "non-binding" and mostly a matter of moral suasion, but it seems clear that the Western imperial nations, should they refuse to abide by the ruling (as seems inevitable) will have a harder time going forward using this sort of ruling to embarrass weaker states (say, in Africa or Latin America) when similar rulings come down against them. The American imperial imperative to silence the would-be whistleblowers of the world willing to embarrass the empire and its enablers will, ahem, trump, as it were.
It may be a few days after Groundhog Day, but... is it?
Item: Elite Amherst College in a town by that name in Massachusetts has decided to drop its heretofore mascot, "Lord Jeffery," named after a colonial era soldier, Lord Jeffery Amherst (the college is named after the town, not the man). The charming Lord Jeff supposedly greeted Native Americans with smallpox infested blankets, among such other attributions of genocide, and, in the early twenty-first century, this mascot, evidently adopted in the early twentieth century, is seen as "divisive." American campuses are now at the forefront of free speech controversies these days, and quite frankly, I'm perfectly o.k. with saying that something as, well, banal as a school mascot is something that should be periodically reexamined in light of modern sensibilities (certainly, schools like NYC's own St. Johns U. dropped its mascot "the Redmen" in favor of "the Red Storm" some years ago on this basis). So... if "Redmen" (or "Washington Redskins") gives legitimate grievance to legitimately oppressed First Peoples, why wouldn't someone who, if history is to be believed, Murdered them? So... conditional "good on ya'", merry old Amherst.
Over to Iowa, where Donald "The Donald" Trump promises to sit out a Fox News sponsored debate (presumably because Megyn Kelly is hosting)... maybe he will... and maybe he won't. Can't criticize the man's tactics so far... he can't seem to do anything wrong if he tried... and Lord knows he's tried.
And on to Oregon, where (apparently) one man is dead and a number of "militia members" (including "leaders") are in custody in the standoff over a federal wildlife preserve. Others remain holed up, so the standoff over White men's ability to private exploit federal lands previously stolen from Native Peoples can go on unabated... will apparently continue, at least for the moment.
Overall, things are... who knows? When the biggest company in the history of the universe announces the biggest quarterly profit ever... and it might be greeted as not particularly good news? Don't know... some cognitive dissonance out there... The Donald is tapping into a strange zeitgeist... Oh... I just... don't... know...
The woman who singlehandedly gave us a Black President (with a middle name Hussein) stands poised to give us an outer-borough New Yorker as our next President... Donald Trump from Queens is polling well against her, for example. (His tacit praise of Kim Jong Un notwithstanding.) And Bernie Sanders from Brooklyn is a mortal lock to win the New Hampshire primary (as is Mr. Trump.)
Aside from the horse-race thing, one could go all big picture, stop a moment, and realize that Hillary [I have to tread carefully, as she and I share a birthday] has had a series of positions that were "fuck-up proof"... first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, legacy celebrity senator from New York, and Secretary of State... and yet, she managed to, well... fuck each of them up, be it with her respective roles in Whitewater (and that cattle futures thing), as First Lady of the United States with, well, the original health care debacle. Vince Foster and the White House travel office scandal, as senator, with that all-important Iraq war vote (thanks again, Hillary), and finally-- as Secretary of State-- a job that entails stepping down the steps of an airplane and having your picture taken, she managed to give us Benghazi, the e-mail fiasco, and of course, she was in charge of the genius neocon underlings who gave us the coup in Ukraine. Say what you will about her, after No Drama Obama, we are sure to have... Drama.
In short, Fuck. This Shit.
Some interesting developments (of the "may you live in interesting times") variety coming out of the always interesting Middle East, as Saudi "We'll Execute Anyone We Damned Well Want" Arabia has unsurprisingly cut off diplomatic relations with Iran. It seems that Shiites everywhere (and especially in Iran) were none too pleased when prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr (and 46 others) were executed on Saturday after being convicted of terror-related offenses. Iranian protesters stormed and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran... that sort of thing always goes well.
And so, in a region that already includes Syria, where all of the nuclear-armed U.N. permanent members of the Security Council (plus or minus China, Ben Carson) are engaged to some extent, with nuclear armed Israel right next door, two of the world's largest oil exporters (and possibly state sponsors of terrorism) as well as regional provocateurs in places such as Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon, as well as religious rivals, are now having an open urinating contest with each other. Yes, this can only go well.
Meanwhile, today's cause celebre in the domestic blogosphere is the apparent takeover of a building on a federal wildlife refuge in remote Eastern Oregon, coherently explained here at Rolling Stone.
Some would complain that [White, male] right-wing protesters, such as these dudes, or similar activists in Nevada recently, are treated more leniently than (arguably) left-leaning protesters, like Occupy! for example, They might also note that while American police routinely gun down people of color, in cases such as the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack, extraordinary effort seems to be undertaken to retrieve the [White] perpetrator alive. Well... your point is? Oh... Texas has "open carry" now. That will go well. Anyway, the fire-starting ranchers in Oregon whose stepped up federal sentence (supposedly) caused (or at least inspired) this will likely surrender to authorities tomorrow, and we'll see what happens then.
ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State purportedly released a video showing the execution of five purported British spies, supposedly a propaganda effort in the face of military set-backs suffered by the group (at the hands of... the Russians?) Meanwhile, fellow New Yorker Donald J. Trump has offered his explanation of the provenance of ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State: it was created, of course, by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, says Mr. Trump. For his part, concerning the apparently self-fulfilling prophesy by Mrs. Clinton that Mr. Trump's inflammatory statements might make their way into an ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State video [it was actually a video by Al-Shabab, the purported Somali affiliate of al Qaeda], Trump's response was "what am I going to do?" Specifically...
"They use other people," he told CBS' Face the Nation in an interview aired today. "What am I going to do? I have to say what I have to say. And you know what I have to say, there's a problem."
And so... 2016 is off and running. In eight days time, I expect I'll be down in D.C. yelling at the White House as I don't think the detention of around 107 men still held at Guantanamo Bay will end before the 14th anniversary of the opening of the maximum security military prison there (January 11th at noon at the park across from the White House for those of you who want to join in the righteous indignation).
While I don't know if the freak storms that have brought horrific flooding and tornadoes to parts of this country (and brought the North Pole to over 50 degrees above normal) have anything to do with it, the first hard frost of this winter here in Brooklyn will be tonight; I managed to retrieve vegetables (well, deeply buried sweet potatoes and some dried beans) from my roof-top vegetable micro-garden as late as yesterday; still didn't manage to mulch everything... well, I'm sure everything will go well. We'll see what all this brings... but I'm sure the weather, and the climate, will all... continue to go well.
Well, maybe this year will bring a greater degree of enlightenment to a greater number of people, and perhaps, some suffering might be alleviated somewhere along the way. Little kindnesses on your part, regardless of concern for any recompense, or even concern that they will have any macro effect at all, are the best advice I can give. A lumine. A lumine.
Happy new year, boys and girls.
Item: Satan sends his annual Christmas letter. Let's just say that this holiday season is looking good for the Prince of Darkness. You go, Janet!
Item: The latest in the wave of campus protests apparently hits "America's Most Liberal College [TM]" (that being Oberlin College). Watch out, Jazz Department!
Item: While no matter what he does or says, Donald "the Donald" Trump remains "teflon" as his lead expands, Matt Taibbi tells us it's "too late to turn off Donald Trump," noting that like most of those who support him, The Donald's "reality" is... wait for it... only what
it he sees on television... where Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are rapists/drug dealers, and all uncomfortable situations are either resolved in 21 minutes or less, or avoided completely by changing the channel.
Item: The Democrats are apparently having a debate tonight... who knew? Bernie "Feel the Bern" Sanders apologized to Hillary Milhaus Clinton for the possibility that some of his campaign staffers might have tried to take advantage of an apparent vendor-driven data breach... Hillary and anything electronic... not being something she wants to talk about. Ever.
And a group of political scientists at Western Illinois University had correctly predicted the Presidential election winner since first making such predictions in 1975, and they predict that a Sanders/O'Malley ticket will vanquish a Bush/Rubio ticket... While such exercises are entertaining, they fail to note that JEB Bush and Marco Rubio are from the same state (admittedly, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were both from Texas... details), and, of course, that The Establishment is probably not going to stand for a Sanders win (although... with Hillary, all things are possible), and Heaven knows, the media does not want you to believe that Bernie's cause is not hopeless before it begins (of course, repeat after me, with Hillary, all things are possible...)
Only you can make this a reality-based Festivus season... will this be the year we can finally ease up on the airing of grievances?
I'll take a short break from noting the various horrors of the world at large, to take a note of my personal horror.
I lost my Dad earlier this month. Although he was no one's model of health, this was unexpected , and a shock nonetheless. To those of you who knew this, and who were most gracious in your condolences, prayers and wishes (and in a number of cases, food offerings), I am grateful, and I thank you. To the rest of you, let this be a cautionary tale: the people we love have this awful tendency of leaving us rather abruptly. It's just part of our reality; the best we can do is to try to live worthy lives and honor them both while they are with us and after they are gone... by living a life of love, and of real value: a lumine.
I leave you with the words of Dylan Thomas (who didn't get to live all that long himself):
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
We'll start with the shoot-down of Russian fighter planes supposedly barely over Turkish airspace by NATO member Turkey; the Grey Lady provides a little background, and Zero Hedge has a little more (and a bit more here). Bottom line: Turkey is allied with certain insurgents who are (surprise, surprise) notionally aligned with the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL against the Assad regime (as is... the United States), and Russia is allied with the Assad regime against all of its opponents. And so, there is a "war of all against all" over there, in which, "our side" can pretend to feign outrage at the excesses of the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL as it notionally targets White People (recently in Paris), but "our side" isn't trying very hard, because our interests are really about taking out Assad to make the world safe for a lengthy Qatari gas pipeline across Syria that the Assad regime opposes insofar as it would undermine Russia's interests. Hey, boys and girls, this one isn't about oil; it's about gas. But "the grown-ups" seem to have no problem setting a chain of events in motion that could, quite easily, plunge us into a broader regional war, if not a World War, involving parties with nuclear weapons at their disposal.
Meanwhile, in unraveling closer to home, in shades of 1968 (or pick your period of "civil unrest"), protests have broken out in Chicago over the simultaneous indictment (for murder) of a police officer for the killing of a Black teenager and release of the video of the killing. [Similar stuff is going on in Minneapolis, where five were shot at a protest of police, and a Black Lives Matter protester was merrily beaten up at a
Nuremberg Donald Trump rally, in Birmingham, Alabama no less.]
Lookit: this started building around four years ago, with the relatively upscale "Occupy!" movement, featuring a large number of middle class kids kvetching about student loan payments, overall income and wealth equality and so forth; the original Occupy! encampment was across the street from my office, in the shadow of the World Trade Center. Anyway, rather than even pretend to meet the (vague, and in any event, not particularly onerous) demands even a little, decisions were made at various levels, coordinated at the federal level, to suppress that movement at all costs. And so, in the last year or two, new and different kinds of protests have become more poignant, more mobile and more aggressive, and have concerned a more basic structural issue of this society, to wit, that there just isn't going to be any kind of "justice," be it in income/wealth distribution or anything else (especially "racial" justice), other than the most vicious and brutal "criminal justice," with continued mass incarceration and brutal on the street violence with an ever-more-militarily-armed domestic police presence... and so, we have a more basic form of civil unrest playing out on the ground (not so amusingly, with a background of potential world war, and the leading candidate for one of the two major political parties hearkening to the rhetoric of the Third Reich, almost seamlessly,)
Thing is, the powerful made a bet that a notionally Black President would be a sufficient salve to the overall raw wounds that quite literally are the organizational principles of this society and culture. While he himself remains popular among the downtrodden, it's quite clear that the grand plan of using an African American man as a bandage on social and economic hemorrhaging probably isn't going to work. Indeed, Clinton or Sanders are probably not going to be much of a solution to the overall problem, as the only candidate with "answers" would seem to be Trump, and those answers would be to take us all the way into an unmitigated open and brutal racist dictatorship, and the clearer he is about this, the more popular he seems to be among his party's constituency.
Pick your temporal metaphor-- 1914, 1968, 1933, whatever... humanity witnesses similar stuff in the past, and it can get really ugly, really fast... at the moment, I have no particular "solution"... but pay attention...
How to reconcile Republican Presidential Aspirant Donald "The Donald" Trump and his recent call for Muslim Americans to be registered [it sounded better in the original German] and the fact that one of the Donald's largest business enterprises (at least, in terms of having his name on it), the Trump Taj Mahal, is named after, well, the Taj Mahal, to wit, the jewel of Muslim art in India. [I leave it as a thought experiment as to why the media is so keen on oh-so-seriously reporting the
blatherings of mental defectives pronouncements of Republican governors that they will prevent Syrian refugees from being relocated in their states, when, of course, this ain't something they can do.] The Paris tragedy is, of course, unthinkably horrible. As was the near simultaneous attacks in Beirut (not that we get much coverage there.) Obviously, emotions will be strong... naturally, the powerful (and The Donald) will continue to use the occasion of such horrors to react at the sub-rational, and entirely base emotional level, dragging down whatever discourse there is yet further.
Like demagogues of yore, the Donald seems to have no problem with the cultural appropriation of things Muslim, even as he scapegoats the actual people (and presumably looks forward to appropriating their stuff).
The more atavistically xenophobic and outright racist The Donald gets, the more solid his lead over whoever is next (currently Ben "Doc Gangsta" Carson and Ted "I went to Princeton and Harvard Law and am not really a Dumb-ass Cracker but I Play One on T.V." Cruz), for the right to take on Hillary in our Electoral Super Bowl.
First, we start with the amazing news that Shaker Aamer, last British resident of GTMO, has been released; Andy has a triple play on the subject: (1) his story on Shaker's release, (2) Shaker's own statement on this release, and (3) Andy's friend and former Pink Floyder Roger Waters and his statement on Shaker's release, Candace is on it as well, and she has an update on the GTMO census, now down to 112.
TD's alma mater defeated Mrs. TD's alma mater 17-7 at football, for alma mater's first Ivy League win since 2012 (and its first road win since 2009.) Roar Lion Roar.
And finally, I am pleased to report that I have successfully completed my 14th consecutive NYC Marathon. Roughly 3 1/2 hours after my hero (that would be Meb Keflezghi). I did encounter this guy, Super Dave Obelkevich today, who ran his 40th NYC today (39 of them in a row), putting me.,. 25 behind him. Goals are important.
Your talking dog turns... 53. Fifteen years younger than our probable next President.
Beloved alma mater's much maligned football team snapped its 35 month losing streak, with a win over still-winless-this-season Wagner College of Staten Island, with a 26-3 score. It had a legendary 40-something losing streak right after I (and the President) graduated... and... well... there. Fortunately, the League's losingest program hiring the great Al Bagnoli, holder of nine outright League titles (a record)... may be just what the program needed.
Roar Lion Roar.
I'm a little slow on the uptake (nothing unusual there)... Andy reports that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident detained at GTMO, is being released. He had been cleared for release for the last several years, but... well... see above re: "human decency delayed."
In the end, we as a nation seem to prefer our military having "a presence" in the vast majority of the world's nations, engaging in wars on terror, drugs, and on nations that refuse to abide by American capitalism and foreign policy, even as the cost of maintaining such a vast military infrastructure is the utter decline of our own infrastructure, be it transportation, education, healthcare, energy transmission, soil health, or frankly, you name it. More important we show that we are "strong." Strong defined as scared shitless of men like Shaker Aamer, a father of four, who, hopefully, will soon be reunited with his family.
This is an extraordinarily welcome development, as well as long overdue. Let's hope that the lack of a UK resident at GTMO will not dampen the enthusiasm of Brits toward ending the GTMO project (and its progeny)... including the use of "British" territory Diego Garcia by the American military for God knows what.
Seriously. Check yourself, if you want.
I began this blog a week after 9-11 as a bitter crank, approaching middle age. Fourteen years later, I find, of course, that after the major 9-11 inflection point from which we could have sought our best selves and instead have had a fourteen year race to the bottom, I find, of course, that I am more bitter, more middle-aged, and more cranky. And I'm still, btw, one of the happiest people I know.
Thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the internets, so I can share the warmth with everyone.