Thursday, October 23, 2014

The shooter -- and his father

I'll assume you've been keeping up with the news. The Parliament Hill shooter in Canada has been identified as a Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. There's a discrepancy regarding this man's name. Reuters:
Some U.S. government sources said the shooter was born Michael Joseph Hall but changed his name to Zehaf-Bibeau.
However, we read in The Globe and Mail that...
Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was born in 1982 and was the son of Bulgasem Zehaf, a Quebec businessman who appears to have fought in 2011 in Libya, and Susan Bibeau, the deputy chairperson of a division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. The two were divorced in 1999.
So he was born Zehaf-Bibeau. Where did the name "Michael Joseph Hall" come from?

There seems to be little or no trace of this young man on the internet, as either Hall or Zehaf-Bibeau.

At some point, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau traveled to British Columbia for as-yet unknown reasons, where he got into trouble with the law. (He seems to have had fairly minor problems with the police throughout his life.) In BC, he was charged with a robbery but pled guilty to a lesser offense and served only one day.

It also appears that MZB spent time in Libya, of all places...
Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau grew up in Eastern Canada, including Ottawa and Montreal, and had spent time in Libya before moving to Western Canada to become a miner and labourer, according to friend Dave Bathurst.
His father, Belgasem Zahef, also went to Libya in 2011, around the time of Gaddafy's fall. Fascinatingly, the father was quoted in the conservative Washington Times in a story published on August 20, 2011.
Zawiyah is the site of a key oil terminal that supplies the Libyan capital. Residents and rebels said the oil flow was shut off late last week.

Rebels succeeded in clearing the city of pro-Gadhafi snipers, some of whom had been holed up in a hospital in the southeastern part of the city. Most of the snipers were believed to be black African mercenaries loyal to the regime.

“There is a disaster in Zawiyah. All the buildings have been damaged; residents have been killed in their homes,” said Belgasem Zahef, a Zawiyah native who recently returned to his home in Montreal after spending over a month in detention. He was arrested in Zawiyah where he had gone to fight alongside the rebels.

Mr. Zahaf said the main prison in the city was overflowing with inmates who were forced to live in sub-human conditions and routinely tortured by their captors.
“In Tripoli people are scared because of NATO bombings,” said Mr. Zahef, who has been urging his family to leave the city. People are fleeing by using back lanes and farm roads, he added.
It would appear that the elder Zahef was raised in Tripoli, had family there, and moved to Montreal, where he married an immigration officer. This story refers to Zehaf as a businessman who ran an establishment called Café Tripoli. For unknown reasons, He returned to the city of Tripoli to take part in the downfall of Gaddafy.

This story (posted just a few minutes ago) indicates that the son went to Libya to fight alongside his father. (The same account repeats the "Michael Joseph Hall" claim.) The robbery in British Columbia took place on December 16, 2011. The chronology does allow for the possibility that MZB took part in the fighting.

The above-cited Globe and Mail story claims that, during his stay in British Columbia, MZB showed signs of a psychological breakdown.
He said his friend frequently talked about the presence of Shaytan in the world – an Arabic term for devils and demons. “I think he must have been mentally ill.”

Mr. Bathurst last saw Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau praying in a Vancouver-area mosque six weeks ago. He spoke of wanting to go to the Middle East soon.
There is a possibility that MZB's violent outburst resulted from his inability to acquire travel documents.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Ottawa shootings: ONE guy...?

Let's quickly run through what we know about the Parliament Hill shootings in Canada: One gunman has been killed, but there are substantive reports of multiple shooters in multiple locations.

The Globe and Mail has released video capturing the sound of gunfire within Parliament itself, as police close in on...someone. We hear what appears to be one large burst -- a shotgun? -- followed by what seems to be reports from multiple handguns. The latter seem to be sounds of policemen returning fire.

The only reported victim was a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial.

What I fear is the recurrence of a pattern we've seen rather too often here in the states: Initial reports always speak of multiple shooters, while the final story pins everything on just one guy. The map above (gratefully stolen from the National Post) shows the geography. I find it impossible to believe that one many could do so much over so wide an area.

Obviously, security must be very heavy in and around that building. How could a shooter at the Memorial get inside?

(We have vague reports of gunfire in still other locations.)

If the Toyota is indeed the killer's vehicle, then why did he head southwest to the memorial before going northeast to Parliament? And why would he enter the building from the northeast corner?

The Rideau Center is a shopping mall. There are conflicting reports as to whether shots were actually fired. The following comes from the National Post...
One suspect was described as “5’9-5’10, overweight and wearing a dark jacket, with a white scarf around his face,” by Stuart Barnable, a Liberal staffer who said he witnessed the events from East Block.

A Dutch tourist said he heard at least four shot and say the assailant running towards Parliament Hill, carrying a large rifle.

A Toyota Corolla, with no plates on it, was left outside of Parliament Hill. Multiple witnesses said they saw a gunman get out of it and attack the soldier. Bomb locating robots have been deployed by police near the car.

Witness Scott Walsh told the Canadian Press he was working near the East Block when he saw a man with long, black hair, his face covered with a white scarf and wearing a black jacket.

“He had a double-barrelled shotgun, he was about five feet from me, and he ran right beside us, ran past the woman with the stroller and child,” he said.

Walsh said the gunman then hijacked a dark car at gunpoint and started driving towards the Peace Tower.
The BBC has reported that crowds ran screaming from the Rideau center. If the map shown above is accurate, the incident at the Rideau center took place at 12 pm. I find it hard to believe that the shopping center would be anything other than empty roughly two hours after the attack at the War Memorial.

The New York Times has published a tweet indicating that more than one gunman was involved. Security personnel have told Parliament staffers that there were three gunmen.

No reports have discussed motive. However...
The incident comes just two days after two Canadian soldiers were run over — and one of them killed — in Quebec by a man with jihadist sympathies.
An "iffy" website printed a comment which said that the dead shooter was a French Canadian convert to Islam. This report was attributed to the BBC. However, I have not found confirmation on the BBC's website.

From NBC News:
Soucy, from the Ottawa police, told MSNBC that witness descriptions of the shooter or shooters had ranged “from wearing a scarf around their head to dressed in all black, so we’re looking at everyone.”

The motive for the attack was not clear, but it came days after Canada raised its domestic terrorism threat level. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said that they are watching at least 90 known ISIS sympathizers.
The RCMP Twitter feed has sounded some notes that seem almost deliberately calculated to induce paranoia. There may be legitimate reasons for asking the public not to post photos or videos of the incident, but at face value, this request looks like an attempt to control information.

Interestingly, we have reports that shots were fired after the events depicted in the video referenced above:
Conservative member of parliament Stephen Taylor tweeted that the suspect had been shot and killed just after 10:30 a.m. Though just after 20 minutes later, Rosemary Barton of CBC reported that further shots had been fired.
There are also reports that another security guard was shot inside the building.

At this time, it is difficult to get a clear idea of the timing. Taylor, above, tweeted that a suspect was killed at 10:30 a.m.; however, another MP, Gerry Byrne, tweeted:
At 9:55am I was in a meeting on the 5th floor of centre block in the Leader's office when I heard shots fired. RCMP response was immediate.
So when was the video taken, exactly? The camera should have placed a time stamp on the footage.

Weirdly enough, there have been power outages in Ottawa which, we are told, have no relationship to the shooting incident. 
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Re-killing the messenger

Most of you have heard about Gary Webb. Back in the 1990s, this excellent journalist penned an important series about contra/CIA involvement in the dope trade. In response to his revelations, the purchased piglets of the mainstream media slammed Webb the way they had earlier slammed Jim Garrison and Richard Sprague. (In more recent times, Glenn Greenwald has received a softer variant of The Big Smear.)

The attack on Webb was savage. Pitiless. Hideous. And spectacular. It had the barbaric majesty of an Aztec sacrifice.

I briefly corresponded with Gary Webb about a year before he committed suicide. By then, of course, he had already committed professional suicide. My expressions of support may have added to his depression, since they probably seemed like premature bereavement cards. My basic message: I admire what you tried to do, Mr. Webb. But they screwed you with obscene ferocity, and right now, I can't think of any way to make things better.

Those may not have been comforting words, but what else was there to say?

The Washington Post is still publishing lies about Gary Webb in order to undermine the new Webb biopic Kill the Messenger. The film stars Jeremy Renner, who was the main force in getting this film off the ground. (Hawkeye is suddenly my favorite Avenger.)

The WP piece is written by one Jeff Leen. If you want some background on this guy, visit Narco News, which has all the dirty details:
Why are we telling you about this Jeff Leen character? You’ve probably never heard of him or read any his work or, if you did, found it important or memorable, not even during his 17 years at the Washington Post. You might be able to name other Post writers and columnists, including people who’ve been there far less time than Leen. But for good reason, you’ve never heard of this guy.
Leen apparently burst a spleen when he saw “Kill the Messenger” on the silver screen. There was the late Gary Webb. Although he never made the “millions” Leen said back in 1997 that he aspired to win through journalism, Webb is suddenly occupying the heroic space in Hollywood’s star pantheon that Leen told us in 1997 was his dream to fill. And so Leen took his butthurt grievance to the Washington Post editorial pages last Friday.
This piece offers much more. A terrific read.

You should also take a look at Robert Parry's response to the WP's variegated deceits.
Leen insists that there is a journalism dictum that “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.” But Leen must know that it is not true. Many extraordinary claims, such as assertions in 2002-03 that Iraq was hiding arsenals of WMDs, were published as flat-fact without “extraordinary proof” or any real evidence at all, including by Leen’s colleagues at the Washington Post.

A different rule actually governs American journalism – that journalists need “extraordinary proof” if a story puts the U.S. government or an “ally” in a negative light but pretty much anything goes when criticizing an “enemy.”

If, for instance, the Post wanted to accuse the Syrian government of killing civilians with Sarin gas or blame Russian-backed rebels for the shoot-down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, any scraps of proof – no matter how dubious – would be good enough (as was the actual case in 2013 and 2014, respectively).

However, if new evidence undercut those suspicions and shifted the blame to people on “the U.S. side” – say, the Syrian rebels and the Ukrainian government – then the standards of proof suddenly skyrocket beyond reach. So what you get is not “responsible” journalism – as Leen tries to suggest – but hypocrisy and propaganda. One set of rules for the goose and another set for the gander.
Actually, the situation is even worse than that. I recall an NYT opinion piece published in the late 1980s which scoffed at the paranoid fools who thought that the CIA had tried to kill Fidel Castro -- a story which the New York Times had itself broken in the 1970s. Insert standard Orwell reference here.

The best, most detailed, most hard-hitting piece on Webb you are likely to read is by Jim DiEugenio. If you have time to read only one study of the Webb affair, Jim's article is a must. I had hoped to publish Jim's words on this very blog, but I need the permission of his publisher to do so, and Bob Parry is hard to reach. These excerpts will have to suffice:
Although the initial assaults on Webb’s series were mounted by the right-wing news media, including the Washington Times, the MSM soon prepared its own withering counterattack against Webb. It began on Oct. 4, 1996, with a front-page story, with sidebars, in the Washington Post. The lead article was written by Walter Pincus and Roberto Suro, entitled “The CIA and Crack: Evidence is Lacking of Alleged Plot.”

A relentless offensive followed designed to crush the populist uprising in its infancy. In short order, the New York Times joined in. Then came the Los Angeles Times with the most deliberate and vicious attack. Editor Shelby Coffey commissioned the equivalent of a journalistic SWAT team. No less than 17 reporters prepared a three-day series that was actually longer than Webb’s original “Dark Alliance” series. Internally, it was known as the “Get Gary Webb Team.” (LA Weekly, 9/29/14)

As the team worked, its common chorus was: “We’re going to take away this guy’s Pulitzer.” The hit team was headed by Doyle McManus and Leo Wolinsky. (A few months later, Coffey promoted Wolinsky to assistant managing editor.)
I recall that barrage very well. Representatives of the LAT hit team appeared in every public gathering that would have them, and their obvious lies generated palpable hostility from audiences. Whenever KPFK broadcast a "forum" featuring their voices, I came that close to tossing my radio out of my second-floor window.
But was there more to all this than just a vendetta against a reporter from a smaller northern California newspaper unearthing a huge scandal on the Los Angeles Times’ home turf? While professional jealousy clearly played a role in the cruelty inflicted on Webb, the intensity of the counterattack also reflected the symbiotic relationship between the U.S. national security apparatus and Washington-based national security reporters who are dependent on official background briefings to receive pre-approved information that news organizations need, especially during foreign crises when access to on-the-ground events is limited.
This next section is important.

Seriously. I implore you to read these words with care, and to keep the message in your memory. I'll return to this theme in a few upcoming posts, including one on the heroic and embattled Syrian Girl.

(In the following excerpt, all emphases were added by me.)
A recently released CIA document on how the counterattack against Webb was promoted is revealing in this regard. Entitled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story,” the six-page internal report. described the CIA’s damage control in the wake of the publication of Webb’s story.

The report showed how the spy agency’s PR team exploited relationships with mainstream journalists who then essentially did the CIA’s work for it, mounting a devastating counterattack against Webb that marginalized him and painted the Contra-cocaine trafficking story as some baseless conspiracy theory.

Crucial to that success, the report credits “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists and an effective response by the Director of Central Intelligence’s Public Affairs Staff [that] helped prevent this story from becoming an unmitigated disaster.”

The Agency convinced friendly journalists to characterize Webb’s series as presenting “no real news, in that similar charges were made in the 1980’s and were investigated by the Congress and were found to be without substance.” That, of course, was a lie. In fact, Kerry’s investigation confirmed many of the Contra-cocaine allegations first reported by Parry and Barger for the Associated Press.

According to the CIA’s “Managing a Nightmare” report, journalists were advised to read Webb’s series critically and the CIA considered the initial attack by the Washington Post the key moment in blunting Webb’s story. The CIA distributed the negative stories to other members of the press.

From there, other papers refused to pick up Webb’s articles, but they often carried the articles attacking him. The CIA’s report noted that the tide of the public relations battle had fully turned by October and soon became a rout. Even the American Journalism Review, which – like similar publications – is supposed to stand up for honest journalists under fire, instead joined the all-out charge against Webb.

The Agency crowed how easy it was to work with journalists to first blunt and then turn around this negative national security story.
Are they going to go after Jeremy Renner the same way they went after Gary Webb? If they do, let's turn the attacks to our advantage. Jot down names. Anyone who targets Hawkeye goes on the list of scribblers who keep questionable "Company."

Bottom line: I've never before seen American journalism in such wretched health. Citizens who want to know what's going on in the world are given only these three options:

1. Mainstream journalism. Largely corrupt. Too many professional newsfolk have established "productive relations" with the CIA and other arms of the government.

2. Fox News and environs. Worse than corrupt. The far-right media infrastructure exists to send gullible, resentful proles into ecstatic trances of rage-gasm.

3. The conspiracy entertainment complex. (That useful term was coined by the proprietor of Rigorous Intuition.) The Clown-King of this surreal realm is, of course, Alex Jones. We're talking about an infuriating gaggle of high-decibel screwballs and bleary-eyed Illuminati-spotters who think that they're the hippest of the hip, even though they unwittingly serve as faithful functionaries of the American intelligence establishment. The conspiracy entertainment complex exists to bring discredit to anyone who questions the worldview presented by the mainstream media and the Fox Newsers.

If you look beyond those three categories, you can still find a few real writers -- seekers of truth who possess courage, insight and professional standards. These brave few have a patron saint: Gary Webb.
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Comments:
Joe--As a full-time film critic and part-time spook hunter, I genuinely liked and admired "Kill the Messenger"; but as I told Jim DiEugenio in a recent email, I was shocked that it was written by Peter Landesman--the director of the recent JFK-assassination movie "Parkland." That stillborn 2013 flick was adapted from Vincent Bugliosi's lone-nut opus "Reclaiming Hisatory." Landesman has called Bugliosi's piece of shit "a mastetrpiece"; yet neither he nor producer Tom Hanks (a good-if-misguided guy), seem to have read anything else about the JFK case. (Nor do they acknowledge that Bugliosi's book was gently shepherded by the Agency's David Atlee Phillips and ghost-written by the disreputible Fred Haines and Dale Myers. Bugliosi never even visited Dallas to interview surviving witnesses!)

As far as I know, the Agency has never tried to recruit or seduce me, because I'm a small fry. But I do beleive that its surrogates have whispered in the ears of my publisher, and thus my editors. Some topics are just too hot to handle.

So I wonder about Landesman. He himself was on the receiving end of the Webb treatment when he wrote a sensational story about sex-trafficking for the New York Times Magazine called "The Girls Next Door." Other media outlets questioned his sourcing, and Landesman resigned from the Grey Lady.

There's a strange phenomenon wherein mainstream reporters move forward and backward fromn too-hot truths. Consider George Lardner at the Washington Post, who pre-emptively attacked Oliver Stone's "JFK:--yet subsequently reported on a British acoustics study that confirmed the HCSA's conclusion that there was a Grassy Knoll shooter.

Waddya think--is telling some of the truth, some of the time, a minor-key component of the Mighty Wurlitzer?
 
OIC

/me rendering
 
It's at least gratifying to see that the comment's on the Washington Post piece are unanimously condemning Leen for his sucking up to the powers that be and continuing to smear Webb, probably because of how Webb embarrassed him and showed what flunky he was for the powers that be in their debate years ago. Leen was obviously an establishment man from the get go (fame and fortune, rather than pursuit of the truth, were his goals as a "journalist"). Webb was a REAL journalist, and he paid for it with his life (while still alive, which led to his suicide).
 
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An obvious fake

File this one under "Who do they think they are kidding?"...

A man wearing a Citizens for a Better Arizona t-shirt brazenly stuffed a ballot box with hundreds of ballots in that state, in full view of a video camera. Although Citizens for a Better Arizona identifies itself as non-partisan, their website encourages actions against anti-gay laws, and they spearheaded an effort to recall the outlandish Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (As we shall see, America's most (in)famous sheriff plays an important role in this story.)

BuzzPo (a right-wing site) identifies the ballot-stuffer as a "Democrat." I feel quite certain that he was no such thing.

The ballot stuffer engaged in a memorable bit of dialogue with one A.J. LaFaro, the Maricopa County Republican Party Chairman (and Arpaio crony), who just happened to be in that particular precinct at that very moment.
Guy: “Stop watching me. You’re annoying me.”

LaFaro: “One of your ballots isn’t sealed.”

Guy: “It’s none of your business. What’s your name?”

LaFaro: “I’m the chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party. What’s yours?”

Guy: “Go f*** yourself. I don’t have to tell you who I am.”
"One of your ballots isn't sealed"...!

As if someone committing a crime would wear an identifying t-shirt!

Are we really supposed to believe that a ballot stuffer would bring in a box of ballots, and do his dirty work openly? Are we supposed to believe that he did all of this under the gaze of a party chairman, who identified himself as such, yet did nothing to stop the stuffing?

Even a small child should be able to see that this incident was nothing more than an unconvincing exercise in theater.

If you have any talent at all for reading between the lines, you can figure out what really happened from scanning the coverage in the ultra-conservative Arizona Daily Independent:
A.J. LaFaro, Chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee testified at the 2013 hearings before the Arizona State Legislature regarding election reforms that eventually became HB-2305. At the time of its passage, opponents claimed the law would suppress the vote and disenfranchise the mostly Hispanic community.

In February 2014, the Arizona legislature, caving to pressure from special interest groups, repealed the law.

Fast forward to August of 2014, and it appears as if the fears of those who initially supported the legislation were real, not the delusions of right-wing kooks.
Tell me, dear reader: Does Mr. LaFaro suddenly seem very suspicious to you? Have you formulated a hypothesis as to who might have masterminded this patently obvious frame-up job?

(By the way, the Arizona Daily Independent website is quite unusual. Even though I called it up on four different browsers, I was not able to select and copy text. A temporary technical problem, perhaps? The quotation above had to be typed in by hand, just as we used to do in the pre-internet days.)

Quite the character, our A.J. is. A little research reveals that Mr. LaFaro is a Tea party sympathizer known for his outrageous antics. In a story published last year, The New Times pegs "wild man" LaFaro as a close associate of the nationally notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who is, among many other things, America's most prominent birther).
In it, LaFaro does his best to fire up the Teabagger faithful by telling all and sundry that our aged autocrat Sheriff Joe Arpaio is under siege and requires the assistance of a toothless brigade of Yosemite Sam-lookalikes: You know, to dog the "domestic terrorists," now out pounding pavement in hopes of scoring the needed signatures to recall his sorry ass.
If you have the sheriff on your side, all sorts of opportunities become available to you. You need not fear arrest.

I hope that Sheriff Joe announces that he will move heaven and earth to identify the ballot box stuffer. The hunt for this miscreant will no doubt be as fruitful as O.J.'s search for "the real killer."
So the pro-Joe goobers are holding a meetin' come Saturday to figure out how to organize a "`shadow army' of `shadow warriors'" willing to "stand toe-to-toe" with the "paid progressive socialists...collecting petition signatures."

And you know what this means: Ornery, white geriatrics, Glocks strapped to their pear-shaped hips, ready to do battle with unarmed signature gatherers.
"Paid progressive socialists" was LaFaro-speak for -- you guessed it! -- Citizens for a Better Arizona. They are the people who headed the recall effort against Arpaio. LaFaro despises that group. Yet we are supposed to believe that LaFaro did nothing as he watched a guy wearing a Citizens for a Better Arizona t-shirt commit a crime.

Ironically, LaFaro came to state-wide prominence when he launched a petition drive against the openly gay mayor of Tempe.

Here's a tongue-in-cheek New Times "endorsement" of LaFaro and his political associates:
He calls the slate "Team LaFaro." Wags call it the "Crazy Town" ticket.

That's because LaFaro has an impressive record of moon-howlin' antics and reactionary statements stretching back more than a decade.

Hell, I could write oodles about the guy. He has the potential to be a great villain.
You should read the rest of the article; it's a lot of fun. But if you prefer to read an assessment from a more "old school" publication, consider this story published in the venerable Arizona Republic:
He called Gov. Jan Brewer a “Judas” for betraying Republican principles.

He likened GOP senators’ support of Medicaid expansion to Pearl Harbor’s “day of infamy.”

He said state GOP leaders were lucky there weren’t gallows in the town square.

All the barbs came from A.J. LaFaro, the improbable head of the Maricopa County Republican Party. All the barbs were about fellow Republicans, though LaFaro would insist the targets of his ire had abandoned the true principles of their party.
LaFaro allies himself with right-wing conspiracy buffs. As you know, plot-spotters of that sort are forever caterwauling about "false flag" attacks. Is it possible that, after hearing so much "false flag" talk, a lightbulb went off over LaFaro's head?

The planners of this frame should have known better than to include that t-shirt. Way too obvious. Even James O'Keefe (who was never Mr. Subtlety) would have known better. As Matt Murdoch said of another frame-up in a famous issue of Daredevil: "It was a nice piece of work, Kingpin. You shouldn't have signed it."
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Comments:
Thank you! I've seen this bullshit story posted all over the internet this morning. Thanks for doing your research and writing this great article.
 
99% of the charges conservatives level against progressives are essentially just them projecting their own crimes onto the opposition.

If they wanted to have a serious conversation about voter fraud then they need look no further than the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections. Their side didn't "win" a single one of those contests at the ballot box; they "won" them behind the scenes where the votes were counted, or mis-counted, as it were.

We could look into the GOP-specific IT company that used to be run out of Knoxville, TN where Ohio re-routed its votes for tabulation; the same company that conveniently "lost" all of the Bush administration's emails. Of course, it would be easier to look into that company if its owner, Michael Connell, hadn't died in an unexplained small plane crash just days before he was due to be deposed.

We could look into the activities of Nathan Sproul & Associates in the run-ups to the aforementioned elections and ask why he was padding the GOP's voter roles with so many names of people who thought they'd registered as Democrats. Of course, it's harder to tell a lot of votes have been shifted in certain races when the pre-election voter rolls show fraudulent increases in GOP voters.

To talk about these crimes as things that the progressive side of the aisle takes part in is to play into the right's feeble games. They're stealing elections, gerrymandering districts, enacting poll taxes, and all the while accusing the Democrats of the same.

When one side is compelled to play by the rules while the other flaunts the rules with impunity you end up with a tilted playing field, which is what we've got now. I'm not sure how to right this ship outside of something drastic like a general strike, but something's got to give.
 
Is it normal for people to be filmed when they're voting? And what's a party man even doing in the room where people cast their ballots, let alone approaching a voter who's on his way to cast? Strange country!
 
b: "Strange country" should be "strange COUNTY." I've never heard of such things occurring anywhere else.

Your points only underscore the bogus nature of this staged incident. I can't believe that anyone would be dumb enough to fall for this charade, but apparently many people are just that stupid.
 
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Is "meritocracy" another word for plutocracy?



A new article in the WP bewails the fact that a child born to money is more likely to succeed than a child born into a poor family, even when the rich kid is a total screw-up and the poor kid "does everything right."
Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne'er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.

What's going on? Well, it's all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don't need a high school diploma to get ahead. It's an extreme example of what economists call "opportunity hoarding." That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children's favor.

But even if they didn't, low-income kids would still have a hard time getting ahead. That's, in part, because they're targets for diploma mills that load them up with debt, but not a lot of prospects. And even if they do get a good degree, at least when it comes to black families, they're more likely to still live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities.
We've known this for a while. America used to be the land of class mobility, but no longer. Europe -- filthy, socialist "old" Europe -- is way ahead of us in that department.

What bothers me here is the use of the term "meritocracy." That's the problem, right there -- that word. The fact that we have internalized "meritocracy" as an ideal demonstrates how and why we have betrayed our principles. To understand what I'm talking about, check out the Chris Hayes lecture embedded above. Yes, I know that many of you watch Hayes all the time on cable news, and a few of you probably want to bitch about this or that aspect of what he does and what he represents. This lecture (presented a couple of years ago) is quite good, and I would advise you not to judge it until you've heard it.
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Comments:
As bad or worse http://www.econ.yale.edu/conference/neudc11/papers/paper_099.pdf5850
 
(first posted unsigned by mistake - please delete)

The term "meritocracy" was coined by social democrat Michael Young, who drafted much of the British Labour Party's famous manifesto of 1945.

Saw what you like about Clement Attlee, Bessie Braddock, etc., but subsequent Labour leaders Callaghan, Kinnock, Blair and Brown haven't been fit to lick their boots. (Harold Wilson and Michael Foot I'd be less rude about, but still - not a patch on Bevan and Cripps.) Attlee went down to Victoria Station to meet the surviving British worker volunteers when they arrived back from the lost war against fascism in Spain. He must have had something good about him at that time even if later he didn't seem to have a problem with joining NATO and UKUSA. Aneurin Bevan was the best prime minister we never had. Wish I'd realised that 30 years ago, but there you go.

Later, Michael Young was the main man behind the foundation of the Open University. The idea was sound. Would that that institution had become 100 times bigger!

He introduced the term "meritocracy" in his 1958 book Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870-2033. I haven't read it, but I'm told he describes a future where the meritocracy, having 'risen', craps on the downtrodden majority something rotten. I don't know whether he shows them getting overthrown; he may do. The book is online.

I'll read it. Nothing much worth reading seems to be written about the future nowadays. There's a lot of shit about artificial intelligence, 'the singularity' (give it a rest!), and 'transhumanism' (neo-Nazi or non-neo-Nazi, take your pick). Behaviourism on steroids, John von Neumann faction. Then there's the Turner Diaries. Some anarchists in London once did a cartoon book that went down well among some of those characters who like to wear black clothes and throw rocks for a year or two. I can't remember the last time I had an intelligent discussion with anybody about the future, the next 5, 10, 20 years. Or consumed a decent cultural production with that as a theme, even. Greenwash has got a lot to answer for. Youngsters in particular seem mainly not to have the sheerest fucking clue of how to begin to think about the present historical dynamic. Most of them just can't make the effort even where big megacorps like Google and Facebook are concerned.

One of my personalities is shrieking at me: "WRITE YOUR OWN BLOG, YOU ARSEHOLE!"
 
Not bad advice, b. In fact, didn't I give you that very advice, like, ten years ago?

I have tried to help those who have sought to start their own blogs. I've even tried to help people whose views differ markedly from mine.
 
thanks for the post joseph and the link to the chris hayes talk... i liked watching it.. trust is a big deal and people don't have it in much of anything at this point. he mentions how the military is trusted most and congress the least... i don't know about life in the usa, but here in canada we don't have the same fanatic veneration of the military/police that folks in the us seem to have.. i don't know if it is still the same, but my viewpoint is based on living in canada.. the fact trust is missing in so many areas were it might have been taken for granted is very true.. chris covers it quite well..

meritocracy is not another word for plutocracy...the idea of reward based on merit has an idealistic ring to it, but it is more idealistic then realistic.. same goes for ideas of democracy and freedom.. i don't watch tv, so i have never seen this guy chris hayes before.. he is touching on an number of important issues, trust being but one of them.. thanks - james
 
As I suspect b knows, Nye Bevan and Sir Stafford Cripps were never leaders of the Labour party. Nye Bevan was the intellectual leader of the left wing faction known as the Bevanites, but Gaitskell was the leader of the party.

Cripps was just one of the Cabinet after the 45 election, like Ernie Bevin or Chuter Ede.

Attlee was okay, but he was limited by the condition of Britain after the war. Reverse Lend-Lease and the other provisions of the Lend-Lease agreement and the Anglo-American Loan Act created a disastrous economic situation, along with the weakened military which allowed the creation of Israel.
 
Oops - posted anonymously by mistake again. Apologies!
 
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

In the news...

Ebola. I've avoided this issue because the whole debate has degenerated into one of those inane partisan screech-fests, with right-wingers yowling that Obama wants us all to die because he's a Marxist or a Moooslim or a Marxist Moooslim. Trying to argue with the people who spew this nonsense is like trying to reason with Cujo.

Nevertheless, let's address the calls for a flight ban from Liberia and other nations suffering from Ebola. Nate Silver points out what should be obvious: Such a ban would solve nothing, since there are no direct flights from "hot zone" countries. Travelers from Africa usually go through Europe. Riverdaughter made much the same point a couple of days ago.

Also, as The New Republic points out, a travel ban would make it difficult for doctors to get to (and leave) the hot zone. Further economic pressures would cause refugees to leave the country en masse, thereby spreading the disease.

Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton. The former CIA Director and Defense Secretary has written a book called Worthy Fights, which I should read but probably won't. Apparently, the book offers tepid-but-telling criticisms of Obama while warmly praising Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton “is somebody that I’ve seen who’s dedicated to this country. She’s smart, she’s experienced, and she’s tough. What the hell else do you want?” in a president.
Simple, Leon: I want someone who favors the policies I favor. To be specific: I want someone who is as allergic to neoconservatism as I am.

Is that too much to ask for? Haven't the neocons done enough damage to this country?
It all makes for a pretty tidy narrative, unless you actually read the book. That’s because Worthy Fights itself offers little specific evidence of Clinton’s smarts, toughness, or luminosity as secretary of state. Panetta notes that they agreed about (1) sending more troops to Afghanistan in 2009, (2) launching the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, (3) not swapping Guantanamo Bay prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, and (4) arming Syria’s rebels.
Let's take a closer look at all four of Panetta's points.

1. Hillary's hawkishness on Afghanistan, as outlined in previous "inside" accounts of the Obama administration, is the main reason I have begun to back away from Hillary.

2. Lots of people would have preferred a raid to capture and try Osama Bin Laden. The fact that he was targeted for death from the get-go indicates that he knew secrets which would have embarrassed this government. "Embarrassed" may be too gentle a word...

3. In exchange for Berghdal, five prisoners were sent to Qatar, with restrictions on their movements. The Republicans spread a rumor that these prisoners became ISIS fighters, but that claim turned out to be a lie. Here's the really weird part: The five prisoners were key Taliban personnel who had been reported as released well before the Berghdal swap. I smell something funky about this whole affair, and until that smell goes away, I can't agree with Panetta or Clinton or Obama or his critics or, well, anyone.

4. "Arming Syria's rebels": Good lord, is Panetta kidding?

The Syrian disaster will go down in history as Obama's most foolish decision -- and Hillary, by her own admission, pushed Obama to pursue this disastrous course.
Hillary Clinton favoured arming Syria's rebels early in the country's civil war but was overruled by Barack Obama, the former secretary of state said in her new memoir, according to CBS News.
She said she returned to Washington from an overseas trip convinced that the training and arming of moderates among the Syrian rebels was the best way to turn the tide against the country's president, Bashar al-Assad.
Once again: We had no business intervening against Assad. He posed no threat to us.

When we decided that Assad had to go, we were toadying to the Saudis, the Israelis and the neocons.

The "moderate" Free Syrian Army is a loose-knit grouping of bloodthirsty warlords who have often worked with ISIS and Nusra. Remember those beheading videos? The FSA captured those guys and handed them over to ISIS. Those are Hillary's "moderates," folks: Even the Pentagon now confesses that they can't work with the FSA.

Syria is a disaster -- a disaster caused by the neocons. I truly hate to admit it, but facts are facts: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listened to the neocons and must therefore be counted among their number.

Speaking of the neocons: The brilliant Robert Parry, one of the few real journalists left in this world, argues that neoconservative pursuit of empire and regime change now threatens the world economically. I hope Parry won't mind if I quote him at length, because this is must-read material:
The neocons and their “liberal interventionist” junior partners have kept the “regime change” pot boiling with the Western-orchestrated overthrow and killing of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the proxy civil war in Syria to oust Bashar al-Assad, the costly economic embargoes against Iran, and the U.S.-backed coup that ousted Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February.

All these targeted governments were first ostracized by the neocons and the major U.S. news organizations, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, which have become what amounts to neocon mouthpieces. Whenever the neocons decide that it’s time for another “regime change,” the mainstream U.S. media enlists in the propaganda wars.
Parry goes on to point out that this country would be far more prosperous if we didn't have to pay for the previous neocon disaster, the Iraq war. That was a very expensive old do: $2 trillion by this estimate, and the actual cost may rise to $6 trillion.

Back to Parry:
But Obama didn’t do himself (or the world) any favors when he put much of his foreign policy in the hands of Democratic neocon-lites, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Bush holdovers, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus. At State, Clinton promoted the likes of neocon Victoria Nuland, the wife of arch-neocon Robert Kagan, and Obama brought in “liberal interventionists” like Samantha Power, now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In recent years, the neocons and “liberal interventionists” have become almost indistinguishable, so much so that Robert Kagan has opted to discard the discredited neocon label and call himself a “liberal interventionist.”
How about "imperialist"? A little too on-the-nose?

Parry goes on to point out that the necons tried to engineer us into the war against Assad in 2013. Had Obama taken the bait, ISIS might now control all of Syria.
By late September 2013, the disappointed neocons were acting out their anger by taking aim at Putin. They recognized that a particular vulnerability for the Russian president was Ukraine and the possibility that it could be pulled out of Russia’s sphere of influence and into the West’s orbit.

So, Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the op-ed page of the neocon-flagship Washington Post to sound the trumpet about Ukraine, which he called “the biggest prize.”

But Gershman added that Ukraine was really only an interim step to an even bigger prize, the removal of the strong-willed and independent-minded Putin, who, Gershman added, “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad [i.e. Ukraine] but within Russia itself.” In other words, the new neocon hope was for “regime change” in Kiev and Moscow.
Across the Continent, populist parties from the Right and Left have been challenging establishment politicians over their inability to reverse the widespread unemployment and the growing poverty. Important to Europe’s economy was its relationship with Russia, a major market for agriculture and manufactured goods and a key source of natural gas to keep Europe’s industries humming and its houses warm.

The last thing Europe needed was more chaos, but that’s what the neocons do best and they were determined to punish Putin for disrupting their plans for Syrian “regime change,” an item long near the top of their agenda along with their desire to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”
Parry then tells the now-familiar story of the American-backed coup in Ukraine, which brought neo-Nazis to power.
Pressured by the Obama administration, the EU agreed to sanction Russia for its “aggression,” touching off a tit-for-tat trade war with Moscow which reduced Europe’s sale of farming and manufacturing goods to Russia and threatened to disrupt Russia’s natural gas supplies to Europe.

While the most serious consequences were to Ukraine’s economy which went into freefall because of the civil war, some of Europe’s most endangered economies in the south also were hit hard by the lost trade with Russia. Europe began to stagger toward the third dip in a triple-dip recession with European markets experiencing major stock sell-offs.

The dominoes soon toppled across the Atlantic as major U.S. stock indices dropped, creating anguish among many Americans just when it seemed the hangover from Bush’s 2008 market crash was finally wearing off.

Obviously, there are other reasons for the recent stock market declines, including fears about the Islamic State’s victories in Syria and Iraq, continued chaos in Libya, and exclusion of Iran from the global economic system – all partly the result of neocon ideology.
Let's return to Leon Panetta's question. What do we want from a President?

We want a President who openly decries neoconservatism. We want a liberal, not a "liberal interventionist." We want no more coups and needless wars. We want no more more hellish partnerships with neo-Nazis and Islamic jihadists. We want an end to the current madness.
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Comments:
I fully understand the dream of actually electing a progressive for President, but I believe all we'll get is another pawn for the Empire. Someone who works for the coming " Global Plantation". Sad!

P.S. Great blog. Thanks!
 
Both Senegal and Nigeria seem to have contained their Ebola situation. Senegal has been declared "Ebola Free" by the World Health Organization, and Nigeria will be declared the same if no new cases appear before this coming Monday.

I think of Hillary as being a war monger.

As for the Bin Laden assassination story, Sy Hersh told the Guardian, "Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true,". Wonder when his book will be ready?

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/senegal-is-declared-free-of-ebola/381608/
 
hmmm....The Pentagon's Failed "Terrorism Futures Market" Is Now a Ukranian Bookstore?

http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-pentagons-failed-terrorism-futures-market-is-now-a-ukranian-bookstore
 
regarding your comment 'still paying for the iraq war'.... it is only funny money - us$.. until it is knocked off it's defacto world currency position, the funny money can spend however it sees fit.. it is not based on anything real, but instead debt! financial sanctions on other countries is a first line of action against other countries, followed by wars on these same countries.. the bully will continue to bully with it's funny money until enough countries round the globe refuse to do business with the funny money anymore.. getting oil denominated in something other then the funny money is the big challenge.. that little plum was set back at bretton woods before nixon took the us$ off the gold standard.. cheers james
 
If it is true that children were intentionally gassed, that is a reason for concern.

However, a lot of children were equally hurt in Iraq by US bombs, so that does cloud the issue.

Neo conservatism is just as unreasonable as progressivism. For the moderate middle to back in power, they cannot ignore either platform.
 
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Friday, October 17, 2014

The CIA says that this trick never works. So why do we keep doing it?

The NYT published a genuinely fascinating story the other day. It discusses a CIA study (to which Obama once made oblique public reference) on the usefulness of an "astroturf" rebel army, in those cases when the American government wishes to see a foreign government toppled and replaced. The CIA admits that this gambit rarely succeeds.
The still-classified review, one of several C.I.A. studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of the Obama administration’s protracted debate about whether to wade into the Syrian civil war, concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict. They were even less effective, the report found, when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.

The findings of the study, described in recent weeks by current and former American government officials, were presented in the White House Situation Room and led to deep skepticism among some senior Obama administration officials about the wisdom of arming and training members of a fractured Syrian opposition.
May I ask the obvious question? If the trick rarely works -- if the CIA told Obama "Don't expect this trick to work" -- then why did we fund a rebel army in Syria?

(Actually, many reports hold that the rebels were funded by our allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. But those nations would not have acted against our will; they may even have functioned as middle-men for our CIA.)
One exception, the report found, was when the C.I.A. helped arm and train mujahedeen rebels fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan during the 1980s, an operation that slowly bled the Soviet war effort and led to a full military withdrawal in 1989. That covert war was successful without C.I.A. officers in Afghanistan, the report found, largely because there were Pakistani intelligence officers working with the rebels in Afghanistan.

But the Afghan-Soviet war was also seen as a cautionary tale.
Like, duh. If the creation of Al Qaeda counts as success, I'd hate to see failure.

Nevertheless, we (defining "we" broadly) did indeed create a rebellion against Assad. We made sure that these rebels got stores of weapons from Qaddafy's Libya. We trained them in Jordan. We allowed all sorts of assorted maniacs to hop aboard commercial aircraft and fly to the war zone, even though these clowns should have been on the "no fly" lists. We never complain when Israel works with the Nusra front, the Syrian variant of Al Qaeda. Whether or not we intended ISIS to become what it has become, the fact remains that they got their mitts on a whole lot of American weaponry. And they'd use it to blow us away, if given the chance.

So why did we do it? The CIA said "Don't do it!" -- yet we did it. Why?

Assad is a dictator, sure -- but he's no worse a dictator than the guys running Saudi Arabia, and we think they are just peachy. Assad was not directly threatening our interests. He let the Christian community in Syria live in peace. Looking at the situation from a "What's in it for us?" viewpoint, I see no upside for America (not even for corporate America) when it comes to this government's mania for toppling Assad.

Moon of Alabama suggests:
It could also have been a policy driven by the neocon/liberal-interventionist urge to just "do something" - i.e. to achieve some self-satisfaction.

Or the plan was never to win. If the aim was and is the "destruction of the infrastructure, economy and social fabric of Syria" then arming all kinds of insurgents was and is a sane and successful policy.
In other words, Washington no longer wants to see certain countries ruled by pliant dictators. We would rather see mere anarchy loosed upon the world.

Maybe we really have become the military arm of a Saudi/Israeli alliance. They say "jump" and we jump. They say "bomb" and we bomb. They say "create a rebel army" and we create a rebel army. In Steinbeckian terms, they are George and we are Lenny -- the big, strong goombah who does whatever the smart guy says.

Future generations will see the supreme irony of this situation: Roughly a dozen years after 9/11, we have become the financial angels and weapons dealers to Al Qaeda, or at least to the maniacs who have inherited the Al Qaeda movement.

And guess what? We are making the same mistake all over again.
John Allen, the retired Marine general in charge of coordinating the U.S.-led coalition’s response to the Islamic State, confirmed Wednesday what Syrian rebel commanders have complained about for months – that the United States is ditching the old Free Syrian Army and building its own local ground force to use primarily in the fight against the Islamist extremists.

“At this point, there is not formal coordination with the FSA,” Allen told reporters at the State Department.
This time, Allen said, the United States and its allies will work to strengthen the political opposition and make sure it’s tied to “a credible field force” that will have undergone an intense vetting process.
Uh huh. Over the past couple of years, haven't journalists been telling us that we were "vetting" the Free Syrian Army? Readers of the NYT and the WP got the impression that we were vetting the hell out of those guys.

Have you noticed what's missing in the current scenario? Okay, lots of things are missing: Rationality, hope, peace, democracy... But I'm referring to something else, something that used to be an important ingredient in the familiar American "regime change" recipe.

There's no false leader. No Syrian pseudo-messiah. No "our guy." No poster-boy. No one to fight for.

In the old days, we would pick "our guy" and build him up -- and if he later got too big for his britches, we would tear him down. Think: Ramon Magsaysay, Ferdinand Marcos (and later Corazon Aquino), Anwar Sadat (and later Hosni Mubarak), The Shah of Iran, Carlos Castillo Armas, Augusto Pinochet, Boris Yeltsin. Fidel Castro? Yep, he belongs on this list. Osama Bin Laden? Yes, him too. Some puppets snip the strings early on.

We tried the "false Messiah" trick one last time in Iraq, but Ahmed Chalabi never could pass the laugh test.

Is there a Syrian analog to Ahmed Chalabi? I don't see one. Well, there's the leader of ISIS, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi -- whoever the hell he really is. But I don't think that our intelligence community ever wanted him to rule huge chunks of Syria.

Here's a weird thought. Had history gone just a bit differently, the lovely "Syrian Girl" might have made for an interesting Joan of Arc figure. Her family was prominent in Syria, and had come afoul of Assad in years past. (I don't yet know the full story.) But "Mimi" (as she sometimes calls herself, although that is not her real name) has taken a resolutely anti-American position. And who can blame her? Hers is the only reasonable position to take, given the fact that America has been backing Al Qaeda in her native land.

At any rate, for all of the planned training and vetting and vetting and training of the New and Improved Free Syrian Army, everyone in the world knows that the true leader of the New and Improved Free Syrian Army will be the President of the United States. I don't think that many Syrians want to fight and die for Uncle Sam.
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Comments:
The overriding goal of the American and Western European elite is not really different from that of any of the elites of empires past: keep the barbarians from coming together, keep the resources flowing to the centre, keep assimilating them into the system. Sometimes the elite can do that by buying into the local power structures, sometimes the best thing to do is to kill everyone and cover their land with salt.

That the Western elites are more and more unable to play this game with an acceptable degree of efficacy is indeed an indication that their dream of world domination is being vexed to nightmare.
 
The officer who replaced me as commander of a CIDG unit in Vietnam was a Cuban who had been a Bay of Pigs POW. He had been ransomed for a farm tractor and given a commission in the US Army for his pains.
 
It's pretty clear ISIS/ISIL/IS was created & funded by Saudi Arabia to serve as that most repressive regime's Wahhabi Sunni Army. And decades of Middle East disasters shows America has long been Saudi Arabia's bitch. That makes some weird double act, wouldn't ya say?
 
It's very astute of you, Joseph, to recognize the lack of a poster boy in the US's Syrian effort. Note we have the same situation in Iraq--we're told that the current Shiite government in Iraq is unacceptable and not worth defending, but that we need to bomb ISIS anyway.

If there is a plan, perhaps it is to let those on the ground who are full of passionate intensity bleed each other to death and the swoop in with our Messiah when the dust clears. Or perhaps the plan is to get us all used to the idea of fighting endless wars for no reason except our refusal to admit their pointlessness.

Your analysis left out two benefits to "us" or, rather, to the interests out government serves: 1)the alleged benefit of denying the Russians a military port on the Mediterranean (do they have another? I don't think so.) And then there's always 2) the benefit to the military-industrial complex of military operations making the MIC seem useful and necessary.





 
Propaganda can be a big war aim nowadays.

On a smaller scale, there is commercial propaganda for weapons sales. Saw that in Georgia and Libya - wars which otherwise made no sense. The west had already taken over Libya, and Georgia never had a chance against Russia.

On a larger scale, yes the MIC - in a context of the "profound cultural changes" required in the desired "world war". (Quoting Ephraim Halevy.) Will it go biological first or nuclear?

Whatever, Google Glass is going to be big!

The US "Saudi Arabia's bitch"? That's what Michael Moore was saying, to avoid mentioning the power of Jewish interests over the US.

Where's the money in it for the Saud family in Syria? Heroin? Been too little mention of heroin in the discussion of that country.
 
Look what these bastards did to Syrian girl!!!
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/17/the-kardashian-look-a-like-trolling-for-assad.html


 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Anon: You can be sure that I'll soon have much more to say about THAT.

b: From all that I've read, Saudi detestation of the great Shiite powers -- Syria and Iran -- is genuine.
 
"(C)ommercial propaganda for weapons sales" is at least part of what's happening with the Swedish "submarine hunt".

Lots of references to the Swedish Visby-class corvette - which, as the newspapers keep telling us, is armed with brand-new stealth technology, being one of the world's first "stealth ships". Shiny marketing photos in the news reports.

I'm not arguing post hoc ergo propter hoc. We've seen this before.

I'm itching for the submarine story to merge with the MV Arctic Sea story. Both involve reported events in Swedish waters.

What could be hidden on or near some of the thousands of islands in the Stockholm archipelago, I wonder?

On Saudi: I think everyone hates the Saud family except some of the leaders of other royalist-despotic Gulf Arab regimes.

Wasn't the Alawite self-categorisation as Shiite tactical, though? Or even locally takeover-oriented? But probably they're all Shiite vermin as far as the Saud family go.
 
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Atrocity -- or psyop? What made Steven Green go mad?

Here's a follow-up piece I had hoped not to write. In 2006, an American soldier in the 101st Airborne -- Steven Green, of Midland, Texas -- led a group of fellow soldiers on a murder mission near Mahmoudiya, Iraq. They entered the home of a humble grocer and murdered everyone there. Green brutally raped a 14 year old girl named Abir Hamza, who was killed and set afire. (The photo to your left shows her at the age of five; the color photo below shows her at a later age.)

Here's what I wrote on an earlier occasion:
I hope every American sees this girl's face. Are our red-state Jesusmaniacs so blinded by their anti-Muslim bigotry -- so blinded by the lies told by our war-loving president and his propagandists -- that they cannot recognise the humanity and innocence in that little girl's eyes? This war has had many victims; let her face represent those we cannot see.
The UK's Daily Mail has published a follow-up story on Steven Green, who resides in a federal prison in Tucson, Arizona. A convert to Catholicism, he is now fighting his sentence on the grounds that he should not have been tried in a civilian court.

The military did not charge Green when the crime happened. He was diagnosed with a personality disorder and let go.

The new interview with Green contains important information about what happened but doesn't cover all of the mysteries that some bloggers noted at the time. Here's what the Daily Mail has to say:
The military placed Green with the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne. Upon arriving in Iraq, Green said, his training to kill, the rampant violence and derogatory comments by other soldiers against Iraqis served to dehumanise that country's civilian population.

A turning point came on December 10, 2005, Green said, when a previously friendly Iraqi approached a traffic checkpoint and opened fire.

The shots killed Staff Sgt. Travis L. Nelson, 41, instantly. Sgt. Kenith Casica, 32, was hit in the throat. Casica died as soldiers raced him aboard a Humvee to a field hospital.

Green said those deaths 'messed me up real bad.'

The deaths intensified Green's feelings toward all Iraqis, whom soldiers often called by a derogatory term. 'There's not a word that would describe how much I hated these people,' Green said. 'I wasn't thinking these people were humans.'
Here's the intriguing part. Green was given unspecified drugs before he committed his crime.
Over the next four months, Green sought help from a military stress counsellor, obtaining small doses of a mood-regulating drug - and a directive to get some sleep before returning to his checkpoint south of Baghdad.

In the interview, Green described alcohol and drugs being prevalent at the checkpoint. Green said soldiers there frequently felt abandoned by the Army and were given little support after the deaths of Casica and Nelson.

Spc. James P. Barker of Fresno, California, testified that he pitched the idea of going to the al-Janabi family's home to Sgt. Paul E. Cortez of Barstow, California, who was in charge of the traffic checkpoint.
Cortez testified that Barker and Green had the idea of having sex with the girl and that he didn't know the family would be killed.

Green, then a private,saidhe had 'an altered state of mind' at the time. 'I wasn't thinking about more than 10 minutes into the future at any given time,' Green said. 'I didn't care.'

At the Iraqi home, Barker and Cortez pulled Abeer into one room, while Green held the mother, father and youngest daughter in another.

Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, stood guard in the hall. As Barker and Cortez raped the teen, Green shot the three family members, killing them.

He then went into the next room and raped Abeer, before shooting her in the head. The soldiers lit her remains on fire before leaving. Another soldier stood watch a few miles away at the checkpoint.
The article does not specify what happened to the other participants.

Lingering mysteries. At the time this matter first came to light, I wondered whether this atrocity had a hidden side.

Reports at the time indicated that a much larger raiding party was involved. Eyewitnesses said that "10 to 15" men entered the home.

The media told us that the incident came to light only after Green confessed during therapy. But that is not true. American soldier knew all about the massacre directly after it happened, and they lied about the perpetrators:
Here's the part of the story most Americans do not yet know: The authorities soon put a (rather threadbare) cover-up into place.
"After three hours the [American] occupation troops surrounded the house and told the people of the area that the family had been killed by terrorists because they were Shi'ah. Nobody in town believed that story because Abu 'Abir was known as one of the best people of the city, one of the noblest, and no Shi'i, but a Sunni monotheist. Everyone doubted their story and so after the sunset prayers the occupation troops took the four bodies away to the American base.
If Steve Green was the only guilty party -- if we must place all blame on a classic "lone nut" -- then who authorized the official lie? How can we believe the claim that the crime remained unknown until after Green was diagnosed, when an official falsehood went out within hours of the massacre? Are we really supposed to believe that four privates could initiate such a strike and put a cover-up in place?
The Americans also told the hospital workers who received the bodies that the family was killed by "terrorists." The cover story didn't work because ill-educated Americans were unclear on who was Sunni and who was Shi'ite.

In this period, the American military made many efforts to stir up tensions between Iraq's Sunnis and Shi'ites. Americans thought it better to see the nation torn apart by sectarian violence than united in opposition to the occupation.

Thus, this eight-year-old crime has direct relevance to current events in Iraq -- see, for example, this article by Patrick Cockburn.

If I may quote again from my earlier piece:
Initial reports said that Green and the others changed into civilian clothes before the attack. Why? Obviously, they did not intend to pass as American tourists. Obviously, authorities would not give a cover story for an atrocity commit by four Americans disguised as civilians. Obviously, the soldiers hoped to pass as Iraqis -- as mujahideen.

Was this whole operation a bungled psy-op? Were the soldiers instructed to commit an atrocity while posing as insurgents? That theory may be speculative -- but to me, it makes more sense than does the official story.

Think about it. A group of Ameican soldiers leave base -- supposedly without their commanding officer's knowledge. They are dressed as insurgents. They commit a despicable act. They return. Other military men immediately come to the scene and ascribe the crime to the insurgency. The cover story falls apart because the Americans foolishly got the victims' religion wrong.

If you don't like the psy-op theory, feel free to come up with another one that covers all of these facts.
On a later occasion, I added this:
Personally, I find absurd the idea that the murder party did not include anyone of a rank higher than private. The house, it seems, is near a checkpoint; weren't there any soldiers there to investigate the sounds of gunfire? If all of the soldiers assigned to that checkpoint were involved in the crime, then why didn't someone in charge of that unit -- a corporal, a sergeant, a captain -- make sure that these men were doing their job? After the crime, wouldn't investigators ask the guys manning the checkpoint if they heard gunshots?

And I'm still trying to understand why the perpetrators dressed in dark clothing. Seems to me that they would gain entry more easily dressed as soldiers. The civilian clothing is consonant with the theory that they were trying to pass as insurgents.
We now know that Green was identified as psychologically troubled before the crime. I'd like to know just which drugs Green received, and just what kind of "therapy" he underwent before he went on his murder spree.

Even if you cannot buy the theory that Green was a manufactured killer, it certainly seems clear that the American military tried to make opportunistic use of the crime.

If another journalist ever gains access to Green, I hope the following questions are asked: Just what kind of treatment did Green receive before the killing? How did the drug affect his thinking? Did he fall unconscious? Does he have any memories -- even hazy ones -- of receiving instructions? How many people participated in the crime? Who was in charge? Why were the soldiers dressed in black civilian clothing? Were the soldiers trying to pass as Iraqis? Why did the military try to blame the massacre on sectarian violence?
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Don't forget the reports of British troops dressed in local garb who were pulled over in Basra either driving a car bomb or firing on locals. Either way, when I read it at the time I assumed they were acting as agent provocateurs in an attempt to inflame sectarian violence in Iraq.
 
Here's a link to a Global Research article talking about the British soldiers in question. It turns out they had been arrested planting bombs around Basra and were only freed because of a full on helicopter and tank attack on the jail that had been holding them.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/were-british-special-forces-soldiers-planting-bombs-in-basra/994
 
In the wake of the Green incident - which was a truly horrifying assault on the lives and dignity of that family - the Army also lied about about a series of revenge killings against members of that outfit. The Army knew full well why several soldiers were kidnapped and killed, but framed those incidents as inexplicable terrorist events.
 
Depending upon which drug or drugs he was given, Green may have a defense. He was given pills by a counselor?

Interesting article on untested antipsychotic drug combinations possibly given to Robin Williams and their possible role in his suicide.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-suicide-of-robin-williams-why-we-need-a-grand-jury-inquest-to-investigate-it/5397645
 
@CBarr,

Absolutely ridiculous. Robin Williams did not commit suicide as the result of any drug or combination of drugs. He may, MAY, have committed suicide due to a Parkinson's Disease diagnosis and prognosis, a painful and fatal disease. Additionally, countless people commit suicide everyday, there is nothing so special about Mr. William's suicide, other than being an idol of film and pop culture. The premise that suicides only occur as the result of drugs is a flawed premise. Just because someone committed suicide does not mean they were influenced by drugs (legit drugs, ie. prescriptions, or illicit drugs). Internal struggles and torment, combined with an observation that the world is not a worthwhile place but a hell, is more than enough thought to lead to suicide, no drugs required. The death of Robin Williams does not need a grand jury, it needs to be left alone. If Robin chose not to live in this world anymore, not only is that totally understandable and relatable, but that decision should be honored and acknowledged. Who are you to force someone to stay here against their will? Other than a self-righteous and pompous jackass.
 
Geeze Jay, no one "forced" Robin Williams to stay on this earth, obviously. The questions about medications are completely valid......you realize that most anti-depressants list suicidal thoughts as a possible side effect right? You know that people, who otherwise showed no sign whatsoever of suicidal tendencies, have killed themselves after starting or being on such drugs for a short period. This is not a controversial issue. However, you may well be right about Robin Williams, and I would agree that there isn't really any point in opening an investigation. If it was the result of medications, there isn't much chance of proving that one way or the other, and he certainly had had problems over the years and had quite a number of reasons to be depressed and possibly suicidal. There is no question that not all suicides are the result of medication side effects, but there is also no question that some, in fact, are.
 
"The premise that suicides only occur as the result of drugs is a flawed premise."

Where did you get this premise? I never stated it, nor was it contained in the article I linked to.

"Who are you to force someone to stay here against their will? Other than a self-righteous and pompous jackass."

Project much? You don't know me nor my life. Again, this was not contained within my statements, nor the article I linked to. Did you even read it?
 
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What you need to know about evil clowns

A rash of evil clown sightings in southern California has led to copycat clownage in other cities.

It all began in the small town of Wasco, near Bakersfield, where the fellow to your left showed up to terrorize the upstanding citizenry. Some say that his clowning is part of an ongoing art project. He even has his own Twitter feed -- which is not to be confused with the Twitter feed of Creepy the Clown, an unfriendly rival who haunts nearby Bakersfield.

The copycat clowns have allegedly been seen wielding machetes and baseball bats and even guns.
One child says he was chased down the street with an ax, KGET reports.

A deputy with the Kern County Sheriff's Office told the station that there have been reports of crimes committed in the neighborhood by people in clown costumes.
We should probably discount all reports of weaponized clowns. If you decided to pull a stunt like this, would you give the cops an excuse to haul you into the pokey? I wouldn't. I would be a scrupulously law-abiding clown who just happened to look evil.

(Is a scary clown allowed to carry a folding knife? California's knife laws are notoriously vague. By contrast, under Maryland law, an evil clowns may have a concealed "pen knife" of any size. If you are intent on being an evil clown, do it in Maryland.)

One copycat clown was arrested for "annoying a minor." Why don't cops arrest the many minors who annoy me?

Evil clown reports are not new. Loren Coleman's 1983 classic Mysterious America contains a chapter on Phantom Clowns. As Coleman documents, in the summer of 1981, a flurry of news reports in several states warned of enigmatic, frightening clowns who tried to lure children into their vans.

(Would that trick ever work? Seriously, has any pedo in history ever had any luck with that tactic?)

The tale of Tuppy. At this point, it may be appropriate to mention my personal run-ins with an unnerving clown. This story takes us back to 1980, the year before the sightings chronicled by Loren Coleman. I was in college when I met Tuppy.

Tuppy favored a brown costume. (Considering his line of work, he was pretty drab.) I wouldn't call him evil-looking; he was more of a sad clown, in the style of Emmett Kelly. During that summer, my friends and I frequently encountered him as we made the rounds of our usual haunts -- UCLA, Westwood, Santa Monica and environs. On occasion, he would talk with us, making unfathomable references to sick and dying children. He spoke in a strange mumble. He never asked for money.

Although we often saw him wandering the streets and always greeted him cheerfully, Tuppy creeped us out. That creature was an omen in greasepaint: Whenever Tuppy flippity-flopped into our presence, we knew that at least one of us would suffer a hideous and immeasurably profound reversal of fortune. For example, one of us might ask a girl on a date and she would say no.

Over time, even worse things started to happen.

As that hellish summer progressed, we all became genuinely freaked out by the conjunction of bad luck and the appearances of His Tuppiness. Bad things happened every single time we laid eyes on him, and I became convinced that Tuppy was somehow responsible for the increasing number of misfortunes in our lives. (Yes, I was guilty of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning -- but in my defense, we're talking about one hell of a lot of hoc.)

One night, I was part of a crew on a student film. The location was a working-class home on the edge of an industrial area, roughly forty miles away from our usual stomping grounds. We wrapped after midnight and packed up the car. I'll never forget the sight of the lone figure who came walking down that dark, shadowy street: Tuppy.

When we asked him why he was there, he gave no comprehensible reply. He simply sputtered something about sick and dying children.

As we drove off, I told my friends that what we all knew. "None of the footage is going to come out. Right?"

So it was written; so it was done.

The next time we saw the Clown of Doom -- near the Santa Monica Cafe, if memory serves -- was the day before I learned that my mother had lung cancer.

Tuppy's charm had definitely worn thin. Fortunately, that was the last sighting.

More clowns. Loren Coleman, a braver man than I, has continued to track the comings and goings of sinister circus folk.  Here are some reports coming out of Chicago in 2008.
In the October 2008 incidents, a man wearing clown make-up and a wig is using balloons in an attempt to lure children into his vehicle on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. Police issued an alert about a week after a man with a similar description was spotted on the West Side.

The near abductions were reported in the 8300 block of South Mackinaw and the 10000 block of South Normal, according to a community alert by Calumet Area detectives.

The man, who wears clown make-up and a wig, approached children with balloons attempting to lure them into his vehicle, but the children ran and called 911, the alert said.

The man, who wears a clown mask or white face paint with teardrops on the cheek, has approached children walking to and from school, police said. Witnesses told police he was seen driving a white or brown van with the windows broken out.

The attempted kidnapping/child abduction occurred on October 7, 2008, at 5:55 p.m. and October 10, 2008, at 8:55 a.m.

Police on Sunday morning, October 12th, said the sightings have not been concentrated to one specific area and there have been multiple sightings of clowns across the city, according to a Harrison Area Special Victims Unit detective.
Seriously, you'd think that a pedophile would use any other approach.

There were quite a few Evil Clown sightings in 2013, as far away as Northampton in the UK, Volendam in the Netherlands, and the island of Crete. Meanwhile, here in the states:
In late April of 1981, Daniel O'Connell of the Boston Public Schools sent the following memo to principals of elementary and middle schools in the city:
It has been brought to the attention of the police department and the district office that adults dressed as clowns have been bothering children to and from school. Please advise all students that they must stay away from strangers, especially ones dressed as clowns.
This sounds like a bad joke, but the memo was based on multiple reports of clowns harassing small children in the Boston area. A clown had tried to lure children into his black van near Franklin Park and the Mary Curley school in Jamaica Plain, and two clowns in a black van had offered Brookline children candy if they would join them for a quick ride.
Boys in the hoods. Some of you may have heard of a similar phenomenon involving roadside interactions with people in dark hoods. Not long ago, while perusing the wares at one of Baltimore's finer thrift stores, I happened across a scholarly volume titled Files From the Edge, by one Philip J. Imbrogno. From page 110:
In the summer of 2002, a young woman left her friend's house at 11 PM in North Salem, New York, and began her drive home to Brewster. She decided to take the back roads and drive around the reservoir; it was very beautiful that time of year. As her car turned down the Lower Magnetic Mine Road, she saw a figure standing in the road up ahead. At first she thought it was a deer, but when she flashed her bright lights she could clearly make out the outline of a person. The figure started walking toward the car and it was apparent this mysterious apparition wanted to get her attention. She stopped the car, rolled down the window, and yelled, "Are you OK?" Without warning, her car was swarmed by "at least fifteen men and women" in long red robes who pounded on her car hood and started shaking the vehicle. The woman screamed when one of them opened the driver's door and tried to pull her out of the car."
You'll have to buy the book to find out the rest of the story. (Ain't I a stinker?) Imbrogno reports that "people in hoods" accounts have a long history in this area; the earliest report goes back to 1910.

The hooded "Tau" robe is, of course, the traditional costume worn by practitioners of ceremonial magic. These robes are usually black, not red, although Squeaky Fromme and her associates once favored the "Wendy the Witch" look.

So, what do we make of these sightings? Perhaps the greasepainted enigmas in Wasco and other California towns are readers of Loren Coleman's book who have decided to maintain the tradition of Evil Clown apparitions. Something similar can be said of the roadside-attackers-in-hoods tales: I suspect that enterprising pranksters have decided to "live the lore" by dressing up as locally famous bogeymen.

The "street theater" theory explains both the Brewster magi and the Wasco clown, along with his Bozo-ized brethren.

But it doesn't explain Tuppy. Tuppy was a demon.
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I have no fear of clowns, and my own feelings are the farthest thing from outright phobia of clowns (coulrophobia). Yet, even I can understand the fear of clowns, without knowing it myself. Clowns mimic and imitate the appearance of people ('folks'), but incorrectly so. In the same way that some folks are terrified of dolls, mannequins and other anthropomorphic 'things' which only incorrectly copy the appearance of man. Even if the copying error is a slight one, something off even in the slightest way, it's more than enough to induce disgust and terror.

It actually makes me wonder if, æons ago, seemingly an ævum ago, when the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) supposedly created man in his image, if the copy, humans, of YHWH was not a perfect copy. Since nothing else YHWH did was done to perfection, there is no reason to believe that an attempt to copy or clone himself resulted in a perfect copy either. Even if it did, doubtless that we have changed much since that time, since modern anatomical humans (homo sapiens sapiens) are so many generations removed from the first generations, we appeared quite differently in our initial generations.

All of it coming from failures in the copying process, in the same way that DNA often fails to transcribe properly, resulting in disfiguring diseases that appear terrifying.

Also, you may want to read upon on Rob Zombie's next flick, titled '31', which is about killer clowns. And where is that sequel to 'Killer Klowns from Out Space' that has been promised for decades. I'm wondering if it will ever happen.

I also believe that fear of clowns may be caused by an unreasonable and irrational fear of pedophiles (a fear that is so popularised and promoted today that it exceeds or equals that of 'terrorists'). Don't buy into the fear of pedophiles, don't buy into the fear of Ebola (Hemorrhagic Fever), don't buy into the fear of 'terrorists' (some would call them 'freedom fighters' or 'rebels'). These fears are stimulated for the singular purpose of control.

Rosamonde Miller put it quite eloquently when she, talking about whether we should think the world (which means human civilisation) is evil or not, said:

"...rather than referring to the natural disasters, physical pain and death we find in the natural world, more aptly describes the view of the world and the concepts we humans have created by our ignorant desire to oppress and control. Thus we create heartless mechanistic philosophies that treat sentient beings as if they were inanimate objects; commit acts and create laws that restrict and objectify other sentient beings, all in search of an illusory idea of safety and survival. We find ways to justify our ends of obtaining greater dominion and control by maintaining our psyches in fear and convincing ourselves that our actions are righteous and that they justify the means we use. We deceive ourselves and indulge in revenge by calling it justice.......... We see a great tragedy unfolding, with ignorant humanity inflicting this tragedy upon each other and upon all of nature."
 
Lon Chaney: "Nobody laughs at a clown at midnight."

PhilK
 
Tuppy's a great story, Joseph. Hsve you considered doing a screenplay?
 
Anon: A friend of mine did, in fact, write a screenplay inspired by Tuppy.

In this story, an army led by the fearsome Colonel Striker take up arms against the rampaging menace of clowns worldwide. After all other clowns are wiped out, only Tuppy is left.

In the last scene, the Colonel has his gun pointed at Tuppy's forehead -- right between the eyes, point blank.

"You can kill us all," says Tuppy, "but you can't kill an idea."

"WHAT idea?" barks the Colonel.

"If only we had one," sighs Tuppy.

The Colonel fires. His aide adoringly says: "Good shot, sir!"

It would have made a fine film. Trouble is, the script was only 40 pages long.
 
Well Joseph, the problem with your 40-page screenplay is that it's just an elaborate joke. You need to have more at stake.

You've got a great mystery there in Tuppy. Is he psychic, or is he a spook? If the latter, why is he spooking you?

You could have conflict among the spookees (some of them want to kidnap Tuppy and torture him for information, some of them want to buy him beers and hang out, and some want to avoid him altogether.

You could have an arc of character of a spookee who wants to think the world is benign and then has to admit that his rational mind will not let him believe that. You could have the waking-up character lose his girlfriend because she wishes to live in a solipsistic world in which if she can keep bad thoughts out of her beautiful mind nothing bad will happen.

Bring children into the mix and that raises the stakes. Maybe Tuppy starts spooking the kids. Maybe he wants to escort them home from school to protect them from invisible threats.

There's a lot of potential that your 40 pages didn't begin to explore.


 
I didn't write that script. But the fact that another person wrote a script demonstrates the impact that Tuppy had on us.

The same person, incidentally, later did a pass on the Brendan Frasier "George of the Jungle" movie. Remember...? "Bad guy falls in poop: Classic element of physical comedy. Now comes the part where we throw our heads back and laugh."

The same guy later found a way to drink for a living, proving Dorothy Parker wrong.
 
Added note: I should note that my friend of that time did an UNCREDITED pass on GOTJ, plus a number of other films.

You may not be familiar with my very favorite Dorothy Parker quote. It runs: "Though many have tried, no-one has yet found a way to drink for a living."

That friend, and maybe two or three other people, remain living witnesses to the entity known as Tuppy. I haven't made up anything. I may have gotten a detail or two slightly wrong -- many years have passed -- but there really was such a clown.

Now that I think back on it, the sight of Tuppy walking toward us on that empty, dark street so late at night was genuinely eerie. I haven't been able to shake that image this entire night. That scene gets weirder the more I think about it.

I mean, Tuppy should have recognized us by that point, because we had had maybe nine or ten previous encounters. Yyet he said no words of recognition. He didn't seem surprised to see us.

And if he did NOT recognize us, why wasn't he at all apprehensive or scared? After all, we were four guys in our early 20s, while he was just one short, middle-aged clown.

Remember, this was late at night. A very dark and very empty street.

Tuppy walked right up to us and calmly babbled something about sick children. There were NO hospitals in that area. No reason for him to be there. Certainly not at that time of night!

He wasn't walking to his car. He seemed to have no car -- not then, and not at any other time. He had no companions of any kind. He never seemed to be working for anyone.

And think of this: Not only were we some forty miles away from our usual realm, we had been filming indoors that night. Loading up the vehicle took maybe ten or fifteen minutes -- not a long window of time for him to run into us.

What are the odds?
 
Reminds me of a book I read about "Sinister Yogi's" and India, before yoga became all the global fashion trend of exercise. There, the yogi's would steal children from the villages in rural India, so the legends go.
 
Fascinating, JB. Earlier today, it occurred to me that modern tales of child-snatching evil clowns are really variants of the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

Perhaps there are no new myths -- just old myths in new costumes.

But Tuppy was not a myth!
 
I now have a new perspective on evil clowns.
Love GOTJ, love Dorothy Parker (and ahem....please share the tip on how to make a living drinking!)

But back to Tuppy. I believe you. I've had an encounter with what I call a wraith. It was three encounters over three days, and the disaster was a neighboring building exploding (gas) that I might have been able to prevent. Two people died.

The wraith was very old, his creased skin clung to every contour of his skull, with a sinister stare. His targeting me was spooky....following me through the streetcar, laying one finger in the middle of my spine, then later that night on the last trains home (my streetcar was immediately following the 2nd to last train) he let the first train pass and got on mine. I fled the car and speed-walked home.

That was when I smelled gas, but didn't call to report it because my landlady was on the phone (yes, back in the day we had one landline.) The next day I went and smelled nothing, so concluded it was all part of my unusual frightened state. The next night our building shook with the force from the explosion. An old man and his daughter didn't make it out of that building.

I was upset and called my significant other to explain how that man must have been a wraith, come to warn me (or blame me---wraiths are held to be spirits who appear before their deaths) so S.O. arranged to come meet me for breakfast. As we were walking out of the house, he was trying to calm me, saying "that old man was not a wraith, why look----there he is right now."

Just as inexplicably as Tuppy, there he was, standing exactly opposite the house we were emerging from. Not walking. Standing and staring. It was some random neighborhood street, no destinations just residences.

"That just proves it!" I clung to my S.O. and noted that neither one of us had the nerve to look back as we walked down the street. S.O. saw two of the three encounters and would only conclude "it was very strange."

I lived in that neighborhood nearly 6 years and never saw the wraith before or after that. I didn't mean to write all this, but I had the flashback at the point in your narrative where Tuppy appeared at some random out of the way film shoot.
 
Great story, zee.

Of course, when I am my most rational self, I presume that Tuppy was just a strangely ubiquitous middle aged man in a clown costume, while your wraith was just an old dude who just happened to be...there.

But these encounters sure don't feel that way, do they?
 
Exactly, Joseph, they don't feel that way. Also strange how real life "coincidences" are considered "unrealistic" in fiction....
 
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Another Curveball?

I'm not the only one who has been wondering why we don't join forces with Bashar Assad to defeat ISIS. A rising chorus is sounding that note.

So forgive me for pointing out the suspicious timing of this Yahoo News story which purports to give us "smoking gun proof" of Assad's evil. The evidence is a trove of 27,000 images of torture victims. These pictures were supposedly taken by Assad's official torture photographer, a man known only as Caesar. We are told that Caesar, sickened by his job, eventually turned against the regime and made his way to the UK.

(Along the way, he faked his death. I've long voiced my suspicion that Anwar al-Awlaki did the very same thing, with our aid.)

Actually, Ceasar was introduced to the world back in January; the BBC wrote about him in June. For some reason, his story is making the rounds in the news once more.

Look, I don't want to sound flippant or dismissive when discussing evidence of an incredibly serious crime. But:

1. Caesar seems more than a little reminiscent of Curveball, the fellow who told some of the lies about WMDs that gave rise to the Iraq war. I'm not the only one who thinks that Caesar resembles the great Iraqi hoaxer: See here and here.

2. There is a long history of defectors who made a living by telling their sponsors anything the sponsors wanted to hear.

3. American news sources hid the fact that Caesar's report was paid for by the Qataris and the Saudis, the prime funders of ISIS.
But it gets worse – we discover that the ‘report’ was commissioned by the Qataris and authored by Carter Ruck law firm in London, solicitors who just happen to also represent Saudi clients accused of, wait for it… funneling money to al Qaida terrorists. Yes, like those same terrorists who happen to have flooded into Syria over the last two and a half years.
4. Caesar has pushed the "Assad created ISIS" propaganda meme. We know now ISIS owes its existence to funders in Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- not to Assad.

5. History teaches us to be wary when assessing atrocity claims. For example: In the 1980s, Robert Conquest and William F. Buckley teamed up to created a documentary called Harvest of Sorrow, which showed photographs of people who died in a famine deliberately created (or so the film claimed) by Joseph Stalin. In fact, the documentary was a complete fake which misrepresented images taken at other times in other places. (The famine in Ukraine resulted from crop-burnings committed by anti-communist guerrillas.)

6. Michael Isakoff's "new" Caesar story on Yahoo News makes no reference to the skeptical reactions that arose when Caesar made the news back in January. In fact, Isakoff strives to give the impression that Caesar has never been mentioned previously!

Bottom line: This collection of photographs depicts a large number of people who were killed after being abused terribly. (The actual number is open to dispute, as this Christian Science Monitor report indicates.) But where is the evidence that Bashar Assad perpetrated these crimes?

Perhaps we are looking at victims of ISIS, Nusra, or the Free Syrian Army. All three rebel groups have been committing atrocities. The rebels have persecuted, tortured and killed many non-Sunnis -- Alawites, Shiites and Christians -- and have meted out brutal treatment to Assad's armed forces.
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Comments:
Carter-Fuck are a libel firm. They mostly work for rick people trying to silence their critics.
 
Hell, Joseph - the victims could just as easily been tortured by us.
 
WSJ revisited that story a few months ago (but at least had the integrity to mention the Gulf connection).

- Anon1
 
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Monday, October 13, 2014

"Rationally related"

Will someone please explain elementary biology to this man? Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott says that lifting a ban on gay marriage will raise the number of children born out of wedlock. Ah yes. And a sheep's bladder has a key role in earthquake prevention.

Quoth he: "Texas’s marriage laws are rationally related to the State’s interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births." Isn't that cute? I always smile when a Texas Republican uses a word like "rationally." Aficionados of sweet reason, take note: 42% of Texas births are out of wedlock, compared to 34% for Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.
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Comments:

This chucklehead is a state attorney general! I read the article (my head hurts) but not the brief he filed. I think you got his argument wrong Joseph. Here's the quote;

"By channeling procreative heterosexual intercourse into marriage, Texas’s marriage laws reduce unplanned out-of-wedlock births and the costs that those births impose on society. Recognizing same-sex marriage does not advance this interest because same-sex unions do not result in pregnancy.”

See, so he wants to keep a ban on gay marriage because the marriages wouldn't result in pregnancy. So I guess older heterosexual couples where the woman is past menopause shouldn't be allowed either?

I have to go take an aspirin for my headache now.
 
I'm sorry but True Believers aren't worth the time.
 
Actually, if you take race into account, Texas and Massachusetts have very similar out-of-wedlock birth rates. On the site you linked, if you take the number of children by race in Texas and Massachusetts as a proxy for births by race (which I couldn’t find there), then Texas births are 33% white, 12% black, 49% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 2% other.

Massachusetts births would be 66% white, 8% black, 16% Hispanic, 6% Asian and 4% other.

The national out-of-wedlock rates by race are 29% for whites, 73% for blacks, 53% for Hispanics and 17% for Asians.

When I ran the numbers in a spreadsheet and assigned the “other” race group the same OOW birth rate as whites, I came up with an expected 45.6% OOW rate for Texas and an expected 35.6% rate for Massachusetts. That’s a 10% gap, similar to the 8% gap you mentioned.
 
Interesting work, Rob. But Abbott did not make race part of his argument, and so I see no reason to do so.
 
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