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.
On the Jewish calendar, the day before sundown of the First Day of Rosh Hashanah is effectively new year's eve. I partied like it was... I don't know... and eked out a finish (and an official finish by just s few tenths of a second) in the inaugural Suffolk County Marathon today.
And now, I will be tired and sore when schmoozing with the mishpacha and davening in schul.
The religion is, after all, largely about suffering.
Happy new year, everybody (particularly my Jewish readers... if I have any...)
Honestly, on this, the 14th anniversary of the day that has been used to justify... so much... I'm not really sure I have anything to add (other than, of course, happy 9-11 to all, even the haters and losers; what did we all do before The Donald?)
One of the things that 9-11 did spawn, of course, was blogs. This one will celebrate its own 14th birthday in a week or so. Fourteen years... represents over a quarter of my life, but something like 90% or so of my daughter's... and she (and countless millions of her contemporaries) have not known a world before September 11th and the official national state of paranoia and Global War Against
Everyone and Everything Terror.
Indeed, fourteen years is so long (representing, I think, much of, if not the majority of time since Al Gore invented the internet) that "blogging" as I once knew it has largely been replaced by social media, which, since its a game I refuse to play by and large, has left this blog in the dust (not that it was ever not within proximity to the dust).
But, as some of you know, I've also spent most of my working life in Downtown Manhattan, just a hundred or so yards from the World Trade Center complex (and the day itself resulted in the loss of the job I then had, as the firm I was with lost the use of its office space from a building one block North of the WTC, offices with a clear view of the events at the WTC. So, working in proximity to the target (and near such other targets as the New York Stock Exchange and the New York Federal Reserve Bank), one
tries to function without the endless maudlin hysteria that, alas, seems to have gripped the nation, a grip not loosened apparently in fourteen years.
Don't know. A cold, realistic assessment will acknowledge that this nation has been an empire since approximately 1940, when FDR extorted Churchill for access to numerous military bases owned and operated then by the British Empire in exchange for the lend/lease of military equipment (which, let's face it, Churchill kind of needed), and what had been an impressively expansive military presence anyway became the most widespread global empire in the history of the world (an empire, of course, that is fraying because it no longer pays for itself, though we insist on maintaining it and the hundreds of garrisons and hundreds of thousands of troops we must "forward deploy" abroad to keep it together)... and of course, it was blowback from maintaining this empire that led to 9-11, the formation of ISIS, the current "refugee crisis", etc., etc. Meaning, we were already largely a permanently mobilized praetorian state, with many of the unfortunate post-9-11 attributes (the surveillance, the permanent never ending wars on everything, the scapegoating of "the other", etc.) largely already in place... But still, 9-11 seemed like an inflection point, if nothing else, to take a lot of this out into the open. Which seems really disconcerting to me... especially as I consider countless young people who never grew up in the "pre-9-11 world." Which was more than just the ability to talk to other human beings through some means other than via a computerized intermediary.
Seems... like something has been lost. Something really important. Hey, what can I tell you?
To Vermont Senator, and perhaps our next President, Brooklyn's own Bernie Sanders, who turns a spry 74 today.
We'll leave aside his opponents' youth and inexperience and note that just as things a mere seven years ago were so awful that, we could have a Black man as President, the nation's worst job... so it seems, a septugenarian Jewish socialist from Brooklyn might be the man for these times.
Who knows? Repeat after me: with Hillary, all things are possible.
Happy birthday, Bernie!
Let's try to do some reconciliation of the following, shall we:
Item: A national poll (whether we accept its methodology or not) now shows upstart Republican candidate Donald "The Donald" Trump with a 45-40 per cent lead over Hillary Clinton (and a lead over other Democrats such as Sanders, Biden, and for some reason, Al Gore).
Item: WaPo reports that
the Gruesome Twosome Gomez and Morticia Bill and Hillary Clinton paid an on-duty State Department staffer separately to maintain Hillary Clinton's e-mail server (located in the Clinton manse in Chappaqua, New York), while Mrs. C. was the Secretary of State.
Item: The Grey Lady reports that this year's "grand Hillary strategy" is to hold on to a "Southern firewall" in the event that Bernie Sanders scores big early wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. [Kind of like "by-passing Iowa" back in 2008, allowing Obama to pick up a win there... hmmmm...]
Item: The Clinton campaign proposes to "weave women's issues" into all of its campaign themes, and "take them out of the silo" they were in, I guess in her earlier campaign.
Item: A Gallup poll shows Hillary Clinton at her worst overall favorabality rating yet (around 41% overall) although she remains steadily strong among Democrats.
I don't know what to say about Trump, other than, as a Brooklynite myself for the last third of my life, I can't tell you how much I relish a national battle between Brooklyn's own Bernie Sanders and Queens' own Donald Trump. Notwithstanding that Hillary's main campaign office is a fifteen minute or so walk from Stately Dog Manor, and she has represented my state in the Senate, no one really thinks of Hillary Clinton as a New Yorker (including herself). Which, I suppose is what we're looking at: she would, if the question were specifically asked, register remarkably low on "authenticity." And say what you will about either Trump, or Sanders (or Biden for that matter), they register "authenticity" off the chart (and Jeb Bush, I'm talking to you-- your older brother was a far better actor than you, and pulled it off... just what is your problem, dude?)
Mrs. Clinton, you would think, would be campaigning as "Remember that eight years of peace and prosperity, growth, budget surpluses, and general optimism you had the last time a Clinton was in the White House? Isn't that what you want?" But she can't seem to get it out of her mouth, amidst what seems to be the Divine Right entitlement she seems to project (entitlement, of course, that allowed her family to earn well over $100 million in the last few years simply by trading on their name and apparent influence, as they fight to maintain their position in the aristocracy while she can't quite seem to project giving a crap about actual working people... the people she voted to screw by voting to make filing bankruptcy harder, and that her husband screwed in signing on to NAFTA, student loan exemption from bankruptcy, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the Commodities Futures Modernization Act that gave us unbridled derivative trading and... well, I could go on for days even before I bring up the deliberate and needless antagonizing of Russia at a moment when we could have made that nation our friend forever that has led directly to what maybe the next Cold War)... Did I say that out loud?
Bernie Sanders has been described as having the politics of Lenin (or is it Lennon?) and the charisma of Ralph Nader. And yet, actual people on the ground can't seem to get enough of him-- his crowds and popularity are growing. He. Is. Authentic. And. perceived. to. be. Trustworthy. And amidst ever-more trying times, his "Neo-New Deal" policy proposals are popular. Will America get Bernie Sanders as a major party national candidate, the most distinctly ethnic New Yorker since Al Smith in 1928? It once seemed an absurdity. Now? Repeat after me: "With Hillary, all things are possible."
And other things do...
Anyway, this piece on "Aristocratization" from our friends at the Onion, even seven years later, is still funny (and no, that is not Stately Dog Manor in the picture).
The Grey Lady gives us this exegesis on the now thirty-year collaboration between the National Security Agency and
itself AT&T. Short answer: if it was technically feasible for AT&T (and to a lesser extent apparently, Verizon) to hand the government anything transmitted over telecommunications (telephone or internet traffic), it would appear that it was done. Which has been my surmise for some time: the only limits on the government's ability to spy on you are technical, not "legal" let alone "constitutional." And so the powerful-- the government and its corporate partners (and yes, that is the word used), can, and do, eavesdrop on every aspect of your life, for purposes not of "national security," but of social control. This can take the form of the outright thought-control that results from the inevitable self-editing we all engage in knowing that "privacy" has long been something we had to "get over," or perhaps from outright blackmail in the event someone proposes to get out of line (in any meaningful way).
To the extent any of this is talked about in the national
dog and pony show election spectacle, it's most likely by Republican Rand Paul (or to a lesser extent, by self-declared-socialist-but-running-as-a-Democrat Bernie Sanders). Most of this, of course, is blown away in the public imagination (such as it is) by the broader bluster of Billionaire Donald Trump, who actually might be the guy to do something about this, as Trump stands for generalized free-floating (White people's) anger about everything, and "everything" might just include the immense sums of money that the government is spending to spy on its own taxpayers (and not, of course, on illegal immigrants, who are probably spied on to a far lesser extent because they are far less likely to devote most of their lives glued to an electronic device on which they are espied.)
Oh well. We are in an intertwined Gordian knot of bad stuff. An example of this that strikes me is the President's scheduled jaunt to the Arctic to highlight the dangers of global warming which is an interesting case study. We have the same President who refuses to have his Administration sign off on a pipeline to transport Canadian tar-sand derived petroleum nonetheless approved Arctic oil drilling, stances that are "inconsistent." Kind of like "the most transparent Presidency in American history" prosecuting more government whistle-blowers than all of its predecessors combined. The first and only time in American history we have the White House and Justice Department overseen by people of color, also happens to be the same government to give hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment intended for use in war zones to American police departments, where it will be, as disproportionately as everything else in law enforcement, deployed against... people... of color.
To try to put what's going on in the world in one long and unpleasant sentence, I am somewhat informed by my recent observations of the New York City subway system, in which virtually every advertisement I saw was either for (1) a financial value-skimming dot com (trying to suck value from everything from food delivery, to taxis, to help-wanted ads) that will now divert value to centralized Wall Street or Silicon Valley v.c.'s that used to go, albeit in a more diffuse, less "efficient" way, to Main Street and mom and pop ventures, or (2) some kind of vocational training, be it by a for-profit operation skimming from the federal student loan machine or occasionally by state-run community colleges. And so, my not particularly helpful take is that "Power that used to be spread out among workers, productive industries, governmental interests and the commonweal has now been ever-more concentrated into ever-more centralized pockets of power tied to money derived either from commons-devastating resource extraction or from the financial trickery facilitated by national policy designed solely to maintain the asset values of those already in possession of substantial assets based not on providing goods and services of real value but based upon the privilege of either issuing unlimited debt or accessing that debt at virtually no cost or risk which permits "them that has to gets" in ever larger quantities, resulting not merely in wealth and income disparity but power disparity to the point that an academic study concludes our nation is an oligarchy and not a democracy, and as a result of a peculiar psychopathology that has infected the powerful, their interests have amounted not to the long-term benefit (or even survival) of themselves or their offspring, but have instead resulted in an insane land-grab of everything in the interests of their personal short-term gain at the expense of the population writ large, resulting in ever more debt-generation (and all that goes with that), resource depletion, environmental degradation and the resulting adverse health consequences that result from that, loss of real living standards for all but those largest rentiers on top of the skimming-game pyramid, and a concomitant increase in the power (financial and otherwise) of those on top of the game at the expense of everyone else, all at the same time that decades of dumbing down education and popular culture seem to have quite literally sapped the very imagination of those not on top of the pyramid to the point where the only "solutions" amount to some variant of extending the status quo that has caused the problems in the first place."
OK then. Remember that you have an infinite capacity for adaptation-- it's what has kept our physically-not-very-formidable species in the dominant position on this planet for a while (and, it is the habituation to the forgetting of this fact that will, if things do not soon change in a big way, kick us out of that position, and possibly, kick us out altogether). What can one do? I will start by leaving that as an exercise for your imagination.
The one place that AT&T, Verizon and the NSA can't reach out and touch, by the way.
The Grey Lady treats us to its own version of NY Post style speculation/encouragement on the issue of whether Vice President Joe Biden will be entering the Presidential race against
Eva Peron Eva Braun Hillary Clinton.
Let me say that with Hillary Clinton, all things are possible. She has already been instrumental in giving us our first Black President (no, not her husband). Right now, she is on track to give us, quite possibly, our first Jewish/avowed socialist President, or possibly our first Latino President, or, maybe even our first woman President (Elizabeth Warren or perhaps some Republican... such as Hillary herself). So that said, why not Joe Biden? Sure, he had been a Dan Quayle-style joke for these last six-and-a-half years, but repeat after me: "With Hillary, all things are possible."
With all due respect, Joe Biden is no one's example of a genius. At least he's authentic... but he's prone to "gaffes." Anyway-- until it became clear that Hillary was going to be a more serious enemy of her own candidacy than the entire right-wing press corps and Congressional Republicans combined, The Establishment [tm] was willing to let her have a quiet victory lap before her coronation while we all sat back and watched Bill and Hillary's buddy the Human Bad Hair Day (they attended his [most recent] wedding) savage the Republican side with his own version of a political reality show, slicing and dicing through political sacred cows and tearing off the Emperor's New Clothes faster than his real estate empire went bankrupt without his father to prop it up. But now, as her abysmal campaign "style," her continuous e-mail fiascoes and, well, her just continue to undermine her campaign...
So... here's the thing.
With the clear exception of Bernie Sanders, whose election would signal something rather dramatic (which is why it isn't going to happen), does anyone doubt that the next President, be it Biden or Hillary or Bush or Rubio or Walker or whomever... is going to (1) continue occupying over 150 other countries and active drone wars and shooting wars, (2) reappoint Janet Yellen or some other clone whose mandate is to prop up the asset values of the already rich and super-rich, (3) continue to shove corporate-giveaway abominations like Trans-Pacific Partnership and TTIP and the like down our throats, (4) take no effort to manage the ongoing American and global declines in anything other than the present manner of making sure that the rich and super-rich do not suffer even a little, (5) fill in your own variant of "maintain the status quo" be it "not close Guantanamo," "not rein in deficit spending," "not control health care costs" or whatever you like...?
I didn't think so. Because the President's recent diplomatic breakthrough with Iran should cause us to give a moment's pause, and realize just how similar we are to that nation. Like us, it has a notional democracy for the election of political
leaders figures, and like us, it has the actual power-holders not elected by that process. The only difference is that in Iran, this arrangement is "official," whereas here, we delude ourselves into pretending that the few hundred billionaires who control an insanely disproportionate share of financial power do not also control all relevant political power.
What can we do about this? Well, you can consider sending money to Bernie Sanders (I have), and helping his campaign. Obviously, I have no expectations on this one. Otherwise, you can withdraw your unbridled belief in "American democracy." Because it exists only in places like "American Idol," although there, teenage girls will probably outvote you, just as oligarchs will outvote you in "elections." Of course, I'm not averse to absorbing the entertainment value of things. That said, we are being presented with a show... so why not sit back, and enjoy it?
Say what you will about Joe Biden... the man is entertaining.