The Talking Dog

May 31, 2014, Even the propaganda is failing

Ordinarily, I would think that anything that gets a captured American service-member released, and simultaneously reduces the population of one of the most notorious prisons in the world (yes, you know I mean Guantanamo) by about 3% is a "win-win." Nonetheless, I can only question this action. I'm troubled that at a place where nearly half the prisoners have been "cleared for transfer" for many years, why arguably the few dudes who might actually be dangerous (mind you, not that they've been charged, tried and found guilty or anything so "pre-9-11" as that) (a senior U.S. defense official confirmed Saturday that the prisoners to be released include Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammed Nabi Omari) are the ones being released. The rest continue to be held in horrific, and seemingly never-ending, incarceration. At GTMO, of course, this is an "ever thus" thing-- fairness, let alone "justice," has always been in short supply.

In some sense, I'm shocked at how inexpensively we recovered Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl: just five Taliban prisoners. I remember on several occasions the Israelis trading a thousand or more Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a single captured Israeli soldier... indeed, the last time Israel traded something like only five prisoners for their soldiers... their soldiers were dead.

To be sure, the Taliban-- who I credit with being smart enough to realize that, with perhaps the exception of the five dudes they just got released, have concluded that Guantanamo Bay is more valuable to their cause if it remains an open and continuing fecund source for new extremists-- really have little use for the other 140 or 145 or so unfortunates still hanging on as prisoners at GTMO,and apparently, now that the United States has more or less announced its draw-down to a manageable 9,800 or so troops in Afghanistan after this year, apparently the Taliban concluded that they didn't have much continuing use for Sgt. Bergdahl either.

Over the years, I've talked to dozens of people about GTMO (the interviews are all linked to at the end of my most recent interview)... and I've assisted Candace Gorman, an attorney representing two GTMO detainees, one former and one still held there... and the only conclusion, from the accounts of former detainees, of former military members, of journalists and of dozens of lawyers (including former Guantanamo war crimes prosecutors) is that, with very few exceptions [which may or may not include the five of whom have just been released... as if this were even remotely relevant in propaganda-world!] we're holding a bunch of nobodies there who did nothing other than being in the wrong place and time, and they continue to be held as victims of political posturing, and little more. These men have been failed by the judiciary, by Congress, by the military, by the executive, and frequently, by their own countries, and unquestionably, by the American public, which, with all too few exceptions, is not even aware that Guantanamo is still open, and if it is, assumes that everyone there has probably already been tried and found guilty, rather than the miserable reality that more men (nine) have died at GTMO than have been convicted in its military commissions (eight).

I have come to realize that actual facts and figures really don't sway anyone; to some degree, it's human nature, but it is also quintessentially American. "Reality" such as it is must be contextualized in an established narrative: if the "new fact" fits neatly in the narrative, it is easily digested; if it conflicts with the story of the world that we have set for ourselves, it will be found disconcerting, and very likely discounted or dismissed. It's that preexisting story that matters-- we are programmed to fit everything we observe into the context of that story-- not to adjust the story to "reality." And so the "worst of the worst" story still persists for most-- even as they merrily tune out every last detail of what's happening in front of them and eat what they're served (such as, you know, Kim/Kanye's wedding plans.)

I'm not suggesting for a minute that the exchange of five ex-Taliban for one U.S. serviceman will shatter anyone's background narrative and world-view: alleged progressives will continue to believe that their sainted hero Barack Obama kept his promise and closed Guantanamo Bay within his first year in office, while alleged conservatives will believe that the place houses nothing but hardened terrorists who deserve everything they've had coming to them. I just wonder if the propagandists themselves, from the White House (whose press officer, perhaps fatigued from having to spout this sort of propaganda horseshit for so long, just announced his resignation) will eventually realize that they are largely talking to each other, and just might, you know, give it a rest.

That's not how you bet, of course: our "leaders" (in finance and in "the military-industrial complex") believe GTMO is useful-- as a demonstration project that we can do it, as an interrogation and torture laboratory, as a wedge against a legal system not completely controlled by them-- or for some other reason. And so... the story as it is... will go on... even as its propaganda basis [that would be "protecting us from the most hardened terrrrrorists on Earth"] is falling apart right in front of us.

May 26, 2014, Bush League

It seems in this, the middle of George W. Bush's fourteenth Barack Obama's sixth year in office, that fatigue is setting in. Hence, after another seemingly dangerous and expensive diversion so that the President can "support our troops" by showing up in Afghanistan for a much-needed photo op, the (on?) crack Obama Administration advance team outed the CIA's station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The WaPo piece makes clear that the alleged Fourth Estate caught the own goal mistake, and issued a "corrected" list of persons who would be present at a briefing with the President not including the name of the CIA station chief (identified as "chief of station"), and besides... everyone important in Kabul probably already knows who the CIA station chief is anyway so there... but it was a reporter from WaPo... the newspaper... that pointed this out to the White House in the first instance, questioning whether this was intentional.

Say this for the Bush Administration: when they out a CIA agent, they mean to do it.

In this era of Orwellian nightmare surveillance technology and an Administration committed to not only using it to eavesdrop on virtually every communication on this planet, but also committed to the personal destruction of any and all who dare out the wrongdoings of government by whistle-blowing (and to the assassination of citizen and non-citizen alike in the name of battling "terrorism"), one might see the humor in this kind of amateur-hour dumb-assery. Then again, it took me a while to realize that this piece about an expensive weapons program being protected by Congress notwithstanding its ineffectiveness... was actually from the Onion.

The Obama Administration just wants you to know that your government is not merely committed to killing terrorists and, of course, hope itself... but seemingly, humor as well.

Consider that job well done. One of the few things this Administration can say that about.

May 11, 2014, No more Mr. Nicepontiff

Evil is alive and well in the form of... could it be... Satan? At least this is what some observers are gleaning from the commentaries of new "moderate darling" Pope Francis. There is a renewed interest in exorcisms, and the new pope (who, of course, might have some level of familiarity with evil himself from a prominent role in Argentina during "dirty wars" and other unpleasant periods there) likes to talk about the Devil... a lot. [Some accuse a Pope who has been a public relations boon to the Church thus far of risking all that goodwill by what they see as an unfortunate return to superstition... you think?]

Which, when you get right down to it, makes perfect sense. He won't talk about, oh, the atrocities going on in Argentina back in the day, or the present atrocities members of his own Church seem to have been committing, in the form of never-ending pedophilia scandals.

And so... when one is not willing to express any kind of, oh, introspection... scapegoats are wonderful-- and Old Nick is as good as it gets, being, you know, the embodiment of evil incarnate.

Seems to me Old Scratch is back in prominence (in Papal parlance and God knows where else) as many other things are going to hell: the post-cold War "unipolar" thing was hopelessly squandered by the alleged "good guys" (that would be "the United States") to make a few more bucks for Goldman and Grumman, a once-in-eternity opportunity to take an energy legacy in the form of easily extracted liquid petroleum which could have been used to set us up for sustainable prosperity was instead squandered to build out suburbia and make a few more bucks for Mobil and Morgan, and the most amazing educational and social advancement opportunities in the form of telecommunications (radio, t.v. and the 'net) were... you get it... commoditized in the most parochial, crass way imaginable.

And so, finding ourselves amidst the commercial detritus of decades of bad decisions (which have made us individually unhappy as we are isolated from each other, and from nature, or from any kind of common culture)... many will lash out in search of anything or anyone... and "Satan" or "the Devil" will do wonderfully. Eventually, of course, we might be able to replace "Satan" with "witches and heretics." No, I'm not accusing this Pope of defining those terms (as Churchmen of the past certainly have) to include Jews, Muslims, non-believers, old women with property, perhaps Protestants, and so forth... but, hey... stick around.

Not even that I expect any of the atrocities of the future (except for pederasty, of course) to emanate from the Church itself, but when you tell people that something "out there" is evil, and they can, you know, draw their own conclusions... just wake up... and smell the boiling oil.

May 7, 2014, I had a really good idea for a blog post...

I'm just having a hard time remembering what it was.

Maybe it was about Americans' seeming (on a comparative basis) non-concern with issues climate-change, even as said climate-change bites them on the ass.

Or at the moment our Supreme Court seems to be enjoying a rebound in popularity...

Not quite sure where I was going. Doesn't matter so much, as no one seems to be reading. Much has happened in the 12 1/2 or so years since this "the talking dog" exercise got going (or the two and a half decades or so since "the world wide web" came on)... but just as television proved that what could have been the greatest opportunity for education and cultural enlightenment proved instead a very useful way to anesthetize an addled factory (and lately, "service sector") work force while selling them beer and cosmetics and pepsi and doritos (and lately, viagara and reverse mortgages)... so the internet, which has several orders of magnitude more potential than even television for... education and... cultural enlightenment... is instead... largely used to... sell shit...

To go all Tyler Durden on you, the internet has just managed to accelerate (and put it in everyone's hands all the time via "mobile-devices") the preexisting trends to work jobs we hate (assuming we can even get those jobs!) to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't like. With the ability to access almost any periodical on Earth in English (if not almost any other language... not to mention the ability to learn just about any other language)... instead, we choose to passively consume what we are served.

I admit that blogging was somewhat more fun back when I had a (non-bot) audience. I also admit that thanks to a combination of allergies from hell turning into a seeming flu, and weather that just will not give me that clear signal to "plant now" that it did so consistently my first two or three years of roof gardening, I continue to put off my annual seedling and seed installation, even though I really enjoy it (and the few fruits and vegetables it yields)... all this gets later and later as "spring" becomes ever more tenuous here (and I write this on a spectacularly nice day in Brooklyn).

Here's Jan's tribute to the 60th anniversary of Roger Bannister's cracking of the four-minute mile six decades ago... and Jan's tribute to the "Mission Accomplished" speech of one decade ago.

Somewhere in the stream of consciousness, I was trying to say something... maybe that there are a few basic things going on-- try to improve the quality of your lives in a physical sense, in a spiritual sense, have a few people whose presence you actually value... I don't know... I had a good idea somewhere in there...

May 4, 2014, Everything that's wrong with this country... in one video

Utterly hilarious... when the nominal leader of government yuks it up with the nominal leaders of the media... all of whom work for the great big brotherhood of man money and power that a recent Princeton/Northwestern study found result in this nation being... wait for it... an oligarchy and not a democracy.

Better late than never, I suppose, that one reaches that state of realization. Yes, boys and girls, the political machinations of "Democrat vs. Republican"... don't mean much anything: at the end of the day, them what has gets in our system. And so, our nominal leader in a tuxedo making fun of well, us rubes... and having quite a laugh at our expense... well... just hilarious. Hey-- I didn't get a harumph out of you! [Give the President a harumph!] Harumph!