May 29 2017

Decoration Day (Celebrated)

We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War
by Jon Schwarz, The Intercept

(I)f you spend time with the dead from the Civil War and the Boxer Rebellion and Iwo Jima and Apollo 1, you’ll also find yourself asking larger questions. Every time I’ve gone there (Arlington), as I’ve looked out from Lee’s hilltop mansion at the hundreds of thousands of soldiers quietly feeding the freshly-mown grass, I’ve wondered why human beings just can’t stop fighting wars.

The fervent pomp of Arlington to me always exudes desperation, as though we’re trying to suppress any acknowledgement that war’s the silliest thing people do. We sort ourselves into teams based on imaginary lines, dress up in costumes, pledge allegiance to pieces of cloth, and then mercilessly slaughter total strangers.

This reality — that waging war is both extremely unpleasant and fundamentally ridiculous, yet we keep doing it – indicates that it must serve some important purpose.

And all the history books I’ve ever read and all the history I’ve lived through suggests what that is: Wars are less about conflicts between societies than about conflicts within societies. Every country has a militaristic right-wing, and nothing helps that right-wing triumph over their domestic enemies more than a state of war. And just like a pharmaceutical company that doesn’t want to cure diseases when managing them is so profitable, their top priority is never bringing the war to an end, but maintaining and expanding their power within the country.

Amazing enough, Donald Trump recently told the National Governors Association exactly this, even if neither he nor they understood what he was saying. “We never win. And we don’t fight to win,” Trump declared. “$6 trillion we’ve spent in the Middle East … and we’re nowhere.”

But obviously Trump himself is somewhere: He’s in the White House. And lots of that $6 trillion is somewhere too, in the bank accounts of defense contractors. So if you understand who the real “we” are, we in fact have won the war on terror and are still winning. U.S. politics have been shoved hard to the right, making Trump possible, and since 2001 the value of Lockheed Martin stock has sextupled. The real we likewise have no interest in “fighting to win” in the sense Trump means — because that would require raising taxes on billionaires and drafting their children out of Stanford and Yale to go die in the sand, something that would quickly lead to the defeat of any president who tried it.

This perspective on the purpose of war was directly expressed by George W. Bush and his circle before he ever became president. Texas journalist and Bush family friend Mickey Herskowitz was hired to write a Bush biography for the 2000 campaign, and spent hours interviewing him. Herskowitz later said that Bush was already thinking about attacking Iraq — because, Bush said, “One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander in chief.” According to Herskowitz, people around Bush, including Dick Cheney, hoped to “start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.” Why? Because, Bush told Herskowitz, that would give him “political capital” that he could use to “get everything passed that I want to get passed.”

In other words, the actual country of Iraq had little to do with the Iraq War. Its main purpose wasn’t beating Saddam Hussein, it was beating Americans who wanted to stop Bush from privatizing Social Security.

Meanwhile, the motivations of our official enemies are the same: i.e., they’re consumed with gaining power in their own societies, and from their perspective we exist mainly as bit players in that drama. A key focus of Al Qaeda when planning its 2000 attack on the USS Cole was filming it so the footage could be used in a recruitment video — one needed, as the 9/11 Commission report put it, for “their struggle for pre-eminence among other Islamist and jihadist movements.” Unfortunately, the terrorist with the camera overslept and missed his compatriots blowing themselves up. So Al Qaeda then filmed a re-enactment and used that tape instead. Thus 17 Americans on the Cole were killed in real life, but zero Americans had to die to create what Al Qaeda truly wanted, a way to consolidate influence in their world.

The same dynamic was involved in the 9/11 operation itself. According to the commission’s report, part of Osama bin Laden’s motivation was that he believed the attack would benefit Al Qaeda “by attracting more suicide operatives, eliciting greater donations, and increasing the number of sympathizers willing to provide logistical assistance.” Just excise the word “suicide” and bin Laden sounds exactly like George W. Bush, planning to inflict spectacular ultra-violence thousands of miles away in hopes of getting bigger campaign contributions.

For Saddam Hussein’s part, all his foreign policy had one goal, keeping him in power for the next week. It’s true his 1990 invasion of Kuwait could easily have led to his overthrow and death in the medium term, and in fact it did in the long term. But that was irrelevant from his perspective, since the invasion eliminated the dire threats he faced in short term. As he explained after he was captured by the U.S., he had created an enormous military establishment during the Iran-Iraq War, something dangerous in a region with a long history of army coups. He went into Kuwait, he said, in part just to keep his generals busy.

What’s most surprising isn’t that politicians start wars to consolidate their own power, but that the people don’t always simply assume that leaders choose war for that reason. Of course, the main calculation for politicians when making decisions is whether or not those decisions will help tighten their grip on the levers of society. From prime ministers to dictators, anyone who doesn’t think about that first and foremost will be, evolutionarily speaking, selected against, and quickly find themselves outside the palace walls.

That’s why we need a Memorial Day, I believe, and so does seemingly every country on earth. At Arlington and at all the world’s solemn military cemeteries you can witness the endless ocean of young men and women who have been shot, gassed, incinerated, ripped limb from limb, shredded, driven to suicide. In the best of situations they died because of talented warmongers in other countries. In the worst it’s because we ourselves were so weak that we handed over power to killers who were delighted to see us die if it gave them a three week bump in their Gallup approval rating. We have to draw a veil of consecration across all of it, because looking at it directly is unbearable.

May 29 2017

Across the Pond

No, not Amelia who I was surprised to learn has moved into the Marvelverse as Nebula. To be fair there’s a lot of makeup but I should have been paying closer attention.

This is a take on the state of play in the snap British Parliamentary elections. Should even a middle case scenario of losses not exceeding their worst case projections eventuate, the Quisling Blairite Tory-lite Neo Liberal PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party- aka members of Parliament and their staffs) will be hard put to not be de-listed (removed by their local Labour Party and replaced by someone else).

For them this is an existential threat, while it is understandable that in the face of present polling (they have no future in the Labour Party where their policies are very unpopular and viewed as traitorous) they are looking for financial and political backing to create a “centrist” splinter party, there is no sign of electoral support and at best they can expect a future as bleak and hopeless as the Liberal Democrats who preceded them and then lost all credibility by toadying to the Austerity Conservatives.

Labour won’t have them, the Tories will use them, ignore them, and cast them aside. Either way they are politically dead.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Surprising Gains
Robert Kuttner, Huffington Post
05/28/2017 06:18 pm ET

Until a few weeks ago, the general assumption in Britain was that the Labour Party was doomed to a sweeping defeat in the June 8 general election. In April, the Tories had an overwhelming lead in the polls.

Labour looked to lose dozens of seats and be consigned to political oblivion.

Well, that was then.

In recent weeks, Corbyn gained dramatically on May. Even the horrible bombing in Manchester, the kind of gruesome event that normally causes voters to rally behind the government, did not slow Labour’s momentum.

If the election were held today, the governing Tory party would lose seats. Labour is in striking distance of winning a majority, and the momentum appears to be with Labour. So, what on earth happened?

First, May’s ploys struck a lot of voters as too clever by half. She seems like an opportunist, first opposing Brexit, then supporting it; first promising not to call a snap election, then changing her mind. Just another scheming politician.

But something more fundamental could at work. When Corbyn made public Labour’s platform, known in the U.K. as its manifesto, (“For the Many, Not the Few,”) the initial commentary from the usual suspects was that the program was hopelessly leftwing – raising taxes on the affluent, increasing public investment, re-nationalizing the national rail grid, capping rents — that sort of outmoded stuff.

Well, it turns out that a lot of ordinary Brits have been hungry for this kind of program. They certainly didn’t get it from the last two Labour governments, under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who joined the globalist, neoliberal parade.

A lot of the protest vote for Brexit came from disaffected Labour voters, who concluded that their party had joined the ruling elite. But Corbyn may bring them back to Labour.

While Corbyn is an old-fashioned class warrior, class in Britain has not gone away; and a lot of the British left-behinds are evidently looking for just that sort of champion. Corbyn is similar to Bernie Sanders, and not just ideologically. A lot of people who may not agree with all of his program have a grudging respect for his honesty.

And Corbyn may have drawn the perfect opponent in Theresa May, who looks more conniving and opportunist by the day.

The point is that a great deal of the mass disaffection from politics and conventional politicians can go right, or it can go left. Sanders or Trump; Le Pen or Melanchon; Brexit or Corbyn.

The difference between Corbyn and Sanders is that Corbyn is in a head-to-head race against an establishment candidate in a general election. He may not win, but these are complicated cross currents—and he was counted out far too soon.

May 29 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Trump’s Energy, Low and Dirty

Donald Trump has two false beliefs about energy, one personal, one political. And the latter may send the world on a path to disaster.

On the personal side, Trump reportedly disdains exercise of any kind except golf. He believes that raising a sweat depletes the finite reserves of precious bodily fluids, I mean energy, that a person is born with, and should therefore be avoided.

Many years of acting on this belief may or may not explain the weird and embarrassing scene at the G-7 summit in Taormina, in which six of the advanced world’s leaders strolled together a few hundred yards through the historic city, but Trump followed behind, driven in an electric golf cart.

More consequential, however, is Trump’s false belief that lifting environmental restrictions — ending the supposed “war on coal” — will bring back the days when the coal-mining industry employed hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Americans.

Charles M. Blow: Donald Trump: The Gateway Degenerate

Last week, when voters in Montana elected Greg Gianforte to fill the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives, even after he was recorded in a physical altercation with a reporter, many Americans — like me — were left to look on in astonished bewilderment.

There was an audio recording of the altercation. The reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, says Gianforte body-slammed him while he was simply doing his job, asking questions on the eve of the election. Gianforte’s camp issued a bogus statement basically blaming Jacobs for the incident, but that statement was not at all backed up by the audio.

There were witnesses. [..]

Outrageous. Assault is not a game. It’s not a joke. It’s criminal. Any moral person would know better than to treat it so cavalierly. A moral person wouldn’t make a joke; that person would take a stand.

But Republicans in the age of Trump have sadly moved away from morality as a viable concept.

Yes, Gianforte’s assault is a glaring display of toxic masculinity in an environment made particularly toxic by the man in the White House and his media bullying. But more telling and more ominous is the degree to which Republicans no longer seem to care, and their increasing ability to compartmentalize and justify.

Read the rest of this entry »

May 29 2017

The Breakfast Club (In Their Memory)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay become the first to scale Mt. Everest’s peak; President John F. Kennedy born; Patrick Henry gives his “If this be treason” speech; Comedian Bob Hope born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)

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May 28 2017

America’s Cup 2017: Day 2

Not a good day on the water for Land Rover BAR or SoftBank. Groupama finally got in the win column. Emirates/New Zealand swept. Oracle USA split but leads the Louis Vitton Cup for also rans by 2.

In detail- Oracle USA sailed 3 races, they won against Land Rover BAR, lost to Artemis, and won against SoftBank. Land Rover BAR lost to Oracle USA and Emirates/New Zealand. Artemis lost to Groupama but won against Oracle USA. Emirates/New Zealand won against SoftBank and Land Rover BAR. SoftBank lost to Emirates/New Zealand and Oracle USA. Groupama only sailed once but finally notched a win against Artemis.


Team Wins Losses Goombay Smash Points Total
Oracle 4 1 1 5
Land Rover 1 3 2 3
Artemis 2 2 0 2
Emirates/New Zealand 3 1 0 3
SoftBank 1 3 0 1
Groupama 1 2 0 1

May 28 2017

Assault… AND Battery (Not Quite A Rant)

Not the cannon or electrical kind this time. English is my first language, also my second and third.

Battery is a criminal offense involving the unlawful physical acting upon a threat, distinct from assault which is the act of creating apprehension of such contact.

May 28 2017

101st Indianapolis 500

There was a time when Indy Cars were just as exciting and interesting as Formula One. The cars were actually faster and innovative designs making breakthroughs in mechanical and aerodynamic grip dominated. Indy has also been much more open to female drivers, Pippa Mann this year.

The problem is that now it’s Turn Left Bumper Car Racing with open wheels.

I suppose you can say it’s “competitive” meaning that the cars are so standardized and the rules so jiggered and the accidents so frequent that anyone can win.

Remind me why I bother to watch anything except the last 5 minutes of an NBA game. Oh, that’s right- I don’t because I’m not any more enthralled by the athleticism of a LeBron slam dunk than I am by figure skating or a nil to naught Football game. Give me high scoring Senior League Baseball with oodles of strategy and steals.

It will be a surprise for some to learn that Fernando Alonso is not the only former Formula One driver appearing in today’s 101st 500, Takuma Sato drove for Jordan, BAR, and Super Aguri before switching to Indy cars in 2010. He started in 4th position, 1 ahead of Alonso.

In keeping with my contention that it is Turn Left Bumper Cars there were 11 Yellow Flags and 15 different race leaders. It started on the 53rd Lap when Pole sitter Scott Dixon launched off of Jay Howard into the catch fence (they call it that for a reason). That brought out a Red Flag and the race was stopped for track repairs (Alonso was leading at the time). After the restart there were about 30 Laps of intermittent Yellows as the field go sorted out with Helio Castroneves coming back from a drive through that pushed him out of the top 20 to lead the race.

It finished in a 5 car pile up with 11 Laps to go that collected James Davison, Oriol Servia, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and James Hinchcliffe. Only 18 of 33 starters finished the race.

The day’s other story was the spectacular failures of Honda engines. They went through no less than 9 of them between various teams and eventually they ended Alonso’s bid (he was leading again) with only 20 Laps to go. On the other hand they were much stronger (while they lasted) than the Chevy plants. Sato, who was using one, blew past Castroneves (Chevy) with 5 Laps to go and never looked back.

So Honda is redeemed, sort of, and Takuma Sato is the first ever Japanese winner at Indy.

May 28 2017

The Breakfast Club (Godzilla)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo 807561379_e6771a7c8e_zps7668d00e.jpg


AP’s Today in History for May 28th

Novelist Ian Fleming is born. Baseball’s National League approves moving the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. Duke fo Windsor dies.


Breakfast Tune The Ballad of Godzilla


Something to think about, Breakfast News & Blogs below

Authorities: Emergency alert at N.J. nuclear plant a false alarm
USA Today – The (Vineland, N.J.) Daily Journal

LOWER ALLOWAYS CREEK, N.J. — So that frightening broadcast alert about an emergency at the Salem County nuclear power plant … never mind, authorities say.

An emergency broadcast message sent to televisions across south New Jersey around 9 p.m. ET Tuesday was just a mistake, according to state and county emergency management officials.

“There is NO emergency at our Hope Creek nuclear plant,” PSEG Nuclear spokesman Joe Delmar said in an email. “We are conducting an emergency drill. Some of the drill scenario was mistaken for an actual emergency. We are working with the NJ Office of Emergency Management to correct this information. Again, there is NO emergency.” …

Tory nerves fray as Jeremy Corbyn narrows Theresa May’s lead in new poll
Toby Helm and Michael Savage, The Guardian

Jeremy Corbyn has dramatically cut Theresa May’s previously commanding lead in approval ratings among voters, according to the latest Opinium/Observer poll, in a further sign that the race for Downing Street may be tightening with 10 days to go until the general election.

The narrowing of May’s lead suggests her decision to call a snap election and then focus her campaign almost entirely on her leadership, contrasting it with Corbyn’s, may be backfiring.

More than a third of voters (37%) say their opinion of the prime minister is more negative than at the start of the campaign, against 25% who say it is more positive.

The opposite is true of the Labour leader, with 39% saying they have a more positive view of Corbyn compared with 14% who now have a more negative view. …

Chinese jets intercept U.S surveillance plane: U.S. officials
Idrees Ali; Ryan Woo, Reuters

Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the South China Sea on Wednesday, with one coming within 200 yards (180 meters) of the American aircraft, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed that the U.S. P-3 Orion surveillance plane was 150 miles (240 km) southeast of Hong Kong in international airspace when the Chinese aircraft carried out the unsafe intercept. One Chinese aircraft flew in front of the American plane, restricting its ability to maneuver.

The Pentagon confirmed that two Chinese jets had carried out the intercept, saying it was “unsafe and unprofessional.”

“We continue to review the facts of this incident and will convey our concerns through appropriate channels with the Chinese government,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander Gary Ross said in a statement. …

Mattathias Schwartz, The Intercept

THE DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION repeatedly lied to Congress about fatal shooting incidents in Honduras, including the killing of four civilians during a DEA-led operation, according to a devastating 424-page report released today by the inspectors general for the State and Justice departments. The report depicts how the DEA withheld information from the U.S. ambassador in Honduras, passed incorrect information up the chain of command, repeatedly misrepresented the U.S. role as an adviser in what was actually a U.S.-led operation, recruited an informant to back up the DEA’s version of events and then stuck by the informant’s story despite its “inconsistent and contradictory accounts.” The DEA told Congress that its informant had passed a polygraph test, but the report concludes that test was undocumented and “largely useless.”

Most importantly, the report states that the DEA falsely characterized the deaths of four Hondurans as a shootout with drug traffickers despite proof on video that DEA-led forces fired on unarmed civilians. The dead were traveling on a passenger boat to a town called Ahuas, on the remote Mosquito Coast. Almost immediately, the mayor of Ahuas and other Honduran officials protested that the dead were innocent; the DEA maintained that its forces had been fired upon by drug traffickers. Today, more than five years later, the report confirms that the people of Ahuas were telling the truth. There was no crossfire. It was a DEA agent who ordered a helicopter gunner to open fire on the passenger boat. The four dead Hondurans — Emerson Martínez, Candelaria Trapp, Hasked Brooks Wood, and Juana Jackson — posed no threat. The DEA gave a grossly inaccurate depiction of its own operations to Congress and let that account stand uncorrected.

It is unclear whether the DEA personnel involved in the Ahuas shootings and the subsequent misrepresentations will face any sanction for their behavior. The inspectors general did not recommend charging any of the agency’s personnel with obstruction of justice or other criminal violations. Instead, they recommended that the DEA improve its internal procedures around reviewing shootings. …








Something to think about over coffee prozac

Woman Accused Of Startling Horses In T.Rex Costume Faces Charges

Horsing around in a T. Rex costume can be fun, but leave the horses out of it.

A North Carolina woman is facing charges after police in Charleston, South Carolina, said she startled a pair of carriage horses Thursday night while dressed as a T. Rex.

Nicole Wells, 26, was allegedly in the dinosaur duds as a carriage passed her on the street, according to Charleston Police Dept. spokesman Charles Francis.

“The individual in the costume stopped and began making growling noises at the horses,” Francis told the Charleston Post and Courier. “This spooked the horses and they began backing up. The carriage then struck an unoccupied vehicle and caused minor damage to its bumper.” …

Bonus Tune Godzilla (bluegrass cover) by The Possum Kingdom Ramblers

May 28 2017

Pondering the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Pondering the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

On Sunday mornings we present a preview of the guests on the morning talk shows so you can choose which ones to watch or some do something more worth your time on a Sunday morning.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with George Stephanopolis: The guests on Sunday’s “This Week” are: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly; and House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D_CA).

The roundtable guests are: Trump biographer Gwenda Blair; Bloomberg View Executive Editor Tim O’Brien; and ABC News Chief National Correspondent Tom Llamas discuss Trumps first months in office.

Face the Nation: Secretary of Defense James Mattis; former acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell; and Benjamin Wittes a Senior Fellow at Brookings and the editor-in-chief of Lawfare.

His panel guests are: CBS News White House and Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Margaret Brennan; Atlantic‘s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg; and the D.C. Bureau Chief of USA Today Susan Page.

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).

The Panel guests are; MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid; Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Stassel; conservative commentator Charles Sykes; and Cook’s Political Report‘s Amy Walter.

State of the Union with Jake Tapper: Mr. Tapper’s guests are: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ); and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D).

His panel guests are: Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA); former Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI); Republican strategist Kevin Madden; and former state Sen. Nina Turner (D-OH).

May 28 2017

Formula One 2017: Circuit de Monte Carlo

I actually hate this race more than any of the others. Sure it’s historic and not a piece of straight track to be found, lots of elevation change, pretty scenery. That said it’s so narrow that passing is practically impossible and finishes are usually decided by Qualifying and wrecks. The situation is not helped by the fact that this year’s cars are HUGE and throw out a ton of turbulence.

It’s also slow. On offer will be the 3 softest compounds- Ultra Soft, SuperSoft, and Soft and any one of them would carry you the whole race if regulations didn’t make you switch.

Lewis Hamilton Qualified a disappointing 14th, behind even Jensen Button, his former team mate, who is back for a cameo after retiring last year replacing Fernando Alonso who will be running the Indianapolis 500 later today from the same Pole position, 9th.

If you are a fan of Scuderia Marlboro this is your weekend to celebrate as they have locked up the front row though Vettel (a total asshole) must be pissed that Raikkonen (a Finn and therefore possessing no particular personality) has the Pole. Bottas (another Finn) is carrying the flag for Mercedes barring a miraculous start by Hamilton (he’s done it before, though not as often as he’s blown it) and then we have the Red Bulls which show no signs of challenging this year.

Yawn. Other than that it’s the normal display of greed and celebrity, meaning of course the blockbuster benchmark by which all others are measured. It’s Monaco. The Côte d’Azur is lovely and I totally envy the Top Gear guys who got to run the course at speed when it was empty. Looks like a fun drive.

Pre-race and race on NBC. Unfortunately it will only delay and not pre-empt Chuck Todd, pre-race at 7:30 am ET, race at 8:00 am ET.

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