Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve Dispatches: Not the Least Bit Irresponsible in Hayden, Leelah Alacorn Makes a Choice, and Flight QZ8501

The end of the year hasn't been particularly festive for many people. In fact it looks just as dreadful in some quarters as it has been in many others over the past 11 months.

On Tuesday morning Veronica J. Rutledge took her two year old son and three nieces shopping at the Hayden, Idaho Wal-Mart. They were there so they could cash in some gift cards they received on Christmas day.

Hayden is located in Kootenai County which has a population of 140,000 people. The AP reports 16,000 of those souls have permits to carry concealed weapons. Veronica Rutledge was one of them.

She was by all accounts highly intelligent. She graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in chemistry and was working as a nuclear scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory. Her father-in-law, Terry Rutledge described her as, "Not the least bit irresponsible."

Right now his description of her is rather difficult to accept. The AP says Ms. Rutledge stepped away from her shopping cart that morning, leaving two things in it. One was her son and the other was her purse. Inside the purse was a small caliber hand gun. It didn't take long for the inevitable to happen. The boy got into the purse, pulled out the weapon, and it went off. The bullet struck his mother in the head and she died shortly afterward.

Two things are now certain. First the child will grow up without his mother. Second, he will have to live his entire life with the knowledge he killed her. Was it an accident? Of course it was. Was it preventable? Absolutely. But now a baby is going to spend decades visiting some psychiatrist because of people who think they can't leave home without a loaded weapon.

Tell me again how free we are because we can carry guns.

The next nightmare comes from It reports that on Sunday, 17 year old Leelah Alcorn was run over by a tractor trailer rig on some stretch of highway in Ohio. It wasn't an accident. Alcorn, who was transgender and had previously said she felt like a girl trapped in a boy's body since the age of four, committed suicide.

In a note left on Tumblr she wrote her parents insisted she be, "the perfect little straight Christian boy."

So much for all those conservative, born again, yahoos who believe gays and transgendered people choose to be the way they are. You don't choose a lifestyle which is not only repugnant to your parents, but leaves you feeling so utterly alone that killing yourself becomes your only option.

Finally, in the Java Sea the terrible process of recovering bodies has begun. Pieces of the wreckage of Air Asia flight QZ8501 have been located and Reuters is reporting at least seven bodies have been pulled out of the water.

There is no word on the cause of the crash, although, as always, there is speculation and reports which may, or may not be confirmed. According to one official the plane had requested to climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000. Air traffic controllers waited a few minutes, then finally gave the flight permission to go to an altitude of 34,000 feet. Right now the official says no response was received and there was no distress signal.

The same unnamed person said radar indicated the Airbus A320-200 had gone into a climb which was described as, "...very high, too high." There were also reports that not only was the rate of climb outside the capabilities of the aircraft, its air speed was too slow. All of that indicates an aerodynamic stall--the God awful moment when the plane's engines and design are no longer viable. Then, after a breathless pause, rather like the apex of a divers launch off the high board into a pool, the aircraft begins to plunge toward the water--trapped by the unforgiving law of gravity

By now we all should know there will be nothing more than educated guesses until the plane's black box is recovered, which may take weeks. Until then the conspiracy theorists will rail on about some proto-type tractor beam on the international space station which malfunctioned during a test. Think not? At least one of them currently claims the tragedy of QZ8501 was a "red flag" ops meant to distract every ones attention from the disappearance Malaysia Airlines flight MH370--which was either a black flag, false flag, or some other type of fucking flag operation.

Warhol said everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. The world wide web allows everyone, including myself, to be a journalist for about the same amount of time.

It is the nature of the 21st century.

2014 will be gone in a few hours and the new year is about to begin. Despite some fantasies of optimism my advice always remains the same. Stay low, keep moving, and for God's sake, don't bunch up. Hey, we don't want the bastards to get us all with one burst.

sic vita est


Monday, December 29, 2014

Air Asia Flight QZ8501

Rest assured your pilot is well prepared to ensure your plane will never get lost.

From an article published in Travel 3Sixty, the in flight magazine of Air Asia.

That bit of hubris created a public relations nightmare for the budget minded carrier when it first appeared in March of this year. That's because on the 8th of the same month Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 flew off into the twilight zone with 239 passengers and crew aboard. Even as they apologized for the article and pulled the magazine, Air Asia executives were claiming the magazine was printed before the Malaysian aircraft went missing.

Now the piece, written by a retired pilot, has come back to haunt them again, because despite the sunny promise, an Air Asia pilot has indeed lost a plane.

Early reports vary some, but all agree flight QZ8501 disappeared off radar screens Sunday morning at 6:24 am local time. A few say the flight crew requested to make a turn in order to avoid storms in the area, which ground controllers agreed to. Other accounts don't mention the turn at all. Shortly after the possible course change the pilot asked permission to climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000. Again, sources vary in detail about what happened next. At least one claims the decision to allow the Air Bus A320-200 to climb was put off for four minutes because another flight in the area was at that altitude. By the time air traffic controllers decided to allow the shift the plane was lost. Another says the pilot was given permission to go only to 34,000 feet which he presumably did. Then a few minutes later, just before controllers were going to let him go the extra 4,000 the flight was gone from the radar.There wasn't a distress call, or at least not one received.

Which ever is the case, the 155 passengers and seven crew are now presumed lost somewhere in the Java Sea. In the words of one Indonesian official flight QZ8501 is, "likely at the bottom of the sea." Search teams from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia are searching an area of ocean roughly the size of New Mexico, so far without success. One report claims, "suspicious," objects were been spotted floating around, but they are close to 700 miles from the aircraft's last reported position.

As with MH370 confusion and wild rumors seem to reign in the early stages of the search. It is a situation which will, no doubt, fuel the unhinged imaginations of conspiracy theorists everywhere. If the wreckage isn't found in a couple of days all sorts of wild stories about CIA black ops, particle rays, and American Death Stars will begin to infest places like You Tube.

The simple fact is there are major differences in the circumstances of the disappearances, but they probably won't squelch rumors of a computerized hijacking and secret landing strips in Vietnam.

MH370 appeared to deliberately hide from radar screens for hours on end, while the Air Asia flight was heading into turbulent weather and trying to get both around and above it. There wasn't an attempt by someone on board to turn off all the technology which allows it to be tracked.

In addition an NBC report noted the Java Sea is well traveled and averages a depth of anywhere from 130 to 160 feet. It is a far cry from the vast expanse of empty and extremely deep ocean most experts believe MH370 fell into. In other words, the odds of finding QZ8501 are much better.

None of that will be of comfort to family and friends of the passengers and crew who are now coming to grips with a terrible truth. Yes, this latest disaster probably won't have all the mystery and speculation, but their loved ones will still be dead and that is what matters the most. Then, in a few weeks, or months, when shock and grief turns to anger, we all know the next step will be massive litigation. Lawyers everywhere in southeast Asia are already lining up for a shot at the air line.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Air Asia CEO, Tony Fernandes seems to have come down with a distinct case of reality. Yesterday he told the press, "Until today we have never lost a life, but I think any airline CEO who says he can guarantee that his airline is 100 percent safe is not accurate."

That's one way of putting it.

Another is human technology will never be perfect, or able to completely conquer the brute forces of nature. And--when our arrogance allows us to forget it--people have always perished.

sic vita est


Friday, December 26, 2014

"The Interview," Redux

So what happened next is Sony pictures grew tired of being called a bunch of cowards. The corporation reversed gears and released the film, "The Interview," on Christmas Day just like they originally planned. Well, sort of.

After some murky outfit calling itself The Guardians of Peace issued terrorist threats the large theater chains here and in Canada refused to show the movie. They still won't. However, Sony found just over 300 independent theater owners who know a golden opportunity when they see one. For the first time in decades they were able to get their hands on a hot property the mega chains wouldn't touch--you know--a feature which didn't happen to be epic pornography, or an abject dud starring people who made terrible career choices.

Yesterday they had lines of customers running down the sidewalks in front of their places in numbers they previously only dreamed about. In addition Sony released the movie on You Tube, Google Play, a dedicated web site run by the company, and the Microsoft Xbox gaming console.

Things didn't go completely without a hitch. Xbox and Sony's Play Station were hacked on Wednesday night and both were still encountering problems as late as yesterday. Another band of merry trouble makers calling themselves, the Lizard Squad took credit. What they have to do with The Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Guardians of Peace, if anything, is unclear at this time.

A spokesperson for the DPRK called the film, "An unpardonable mockery to the dignity of our supreme leader." The Russians said the North Koreans anger was, "quite understandable." Earlier, among other things, the Chinese accused Seth Rogen and crew of, "cultural arrogance." At home it appears American television talk show hosts, who the film also skewers, haven't taken it so personally--at least not yet.

NBC interviewed a few movie goers who bragged about standing up for freedom of expression and doing, "The most American thing." From a Hawaiian golf course Barack Obama said he was glad the film was being released. Rogen took to a stage, beer in hand, at a midnight showing somewhere and thanked both the theater and audience for, "making this fucking thing happen."

Yes, but exactly how far can all this patriotic frenzy carry a film which cost between $42 and $44 million to make? According to reports the movie took in $1 million yesterday. The original estimate by Sony was that from Christmas Day through the weekend in wide release it would gross $20 million.

It is a number which, at this point, seems completely unattainable.  Those 300 plus screens represent less than 10% of the number of venues which Sony had originally planned on. Not to mention there is no telling how many deft keyboardists are out there at this moment watching it for free thanks to their nefarious computer skills.

Sony might talk about freedom of expression, but they are, after all, looking  to make a buck. Ultimately, if there is no profit in a motion picture they could give a rat's ass about freedom of expression.

As for the film itself, right now, Rotten Tomatoes gives "The Interview," a rating of 45%, meaning a majority of critics they've surveyed have panned it. MovieFone has it at 53%. In the NBC piece, after viewing the film, one patron told a reporter, "It was hilarious in a stupid way."

In other words it ranks right up there with the average American male's opinion of those old Three Stooges short films.

That's right, America can be accused of many things, but having a sophisticated sense of humor will never be one of them.

Technology may change, but we won't. We are constantly crude to the extreme. We always have been and always will be.

It was something I first realized during my freshman year at the University of Oklahoma in 1968. The sophomores who were mercilessly hazing us wore black tee shirts which said, "If you can't take a joke, fuck you."

Indeed. Nothing says America more than that.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

James Woods and Pat Lynch Know Who to Blame

Well James Woods certainly knows how to defuse racial tensions. Following the murder of two New York City police officers on Saturday night the actor, who usually plays some sort of slimy villain in motion pictures, posted a short series of messages on twitter. The first, which was later deleted, read, "This disgusting pig is DIRECTLY responsible for the murder of two good policemen. No discussion." The text was accompanied by a photo of Reverend Al Sharpton.

In addition he tweeted, "I'm putting wings on pigs today--cop assassin Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Is race pimp Al Sharpton eating caviar this morning?"

In a third post he wrote, "Sony has hired race racketeer and tax cheat Al Sharpton for its board. Imagine this: #BoycottSony until he is ousted." This means Mr. Woods is on the Hate Sony Bandwagon with some highly questionable people, although for different reasons. Hey, just check out the latest news releases from North Korea if you think I'm in error.

The putting wings on pigs line was lifted from an instagram message from Brinsley who, shortly before he murdered the two officers wrote, "I'm putting wings on pigs. They take 1 of ours. Let's take 2 of theirs."

To say Mr. Brinsley didn't like the police is a bit of an understatement, but then he didn't seem to like anyone very much. Earlier in the day, down in the Baltimore area, he shot and critically wounded his ex-girl friend, Shaneka Nicole Thompson who isn't on a police force anywhere. There is no word if Jimmy Woods blames Sharpton for that act of violence too, although he seems on a roll and probably will somewhere down the line.

According to reports, the police had popped Brinsley at least 19 times in the past, mostly in Georgia for petty gangster wannabe stuff. New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was quoted as saying he had also attempted suicide last year.

Of course not everyone blames the good reverend for the deaths of officers Wenjian Liu and Raphael Ramos. The president of the New York City police union, Patrick Lynch issued a statement which said, "There is blood on many hands tonight. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor." His reasoning is the mayor has begun to rethink police training and procedures when it comes to minorities and His Honor also seemed to question a grand jury's finding.

All this began when a Staten Island panel refused to indict NYPD officers in the death of Eric Garner on December third, despite a ruling by the medical examiner which said his death was a homicide. Garner, a master criminal who committed the heinous crime of selling individual untaxed cigarettes on a street corner, died in July after police took him to the sidewalk in a choke hold. The decision came hard on the heels of a Missouri grand jury verdict which failed to indict Ferguson, MO policeman Darren Williams after he shot and killed an unarmed African American, Michael Brown.

Sharpton's National Action Network organized protests in Missouri and New York. In every instance Sharpton has called for peaceful and non-violent demonstrations. After the tragedy in Brooklyn he was quoted as saying, "Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in connection with violence, or killing of police is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases."

There is no pleasing some people though. It looks as if Woods and Lynch believe if you exercise your constitutional right to actually question the actions of the police, you're actively telling members of the community to kill cops.

Yeah, yeah and those of us who protested the Vietnam conflict not only committed treason, but ultimately cost us the war.

In the end, there is no questioning the bravery and service of the overwhelming majority of police. On the other hand, however, there can be no questioning the anger and frustration felt by a portion of the population who are routinely rousted simply because of the color of their skin. Finally there can be no question those people and others have the right to peacefully speak their minds and demonstrate.

There are plenty of insane people in this country and practically every one of them has a loaded gun. All they need is an excuse.

Tragically, like too many Americans of every race, Ismaaiyl Brinsley finally found one and last Saturday he acted on it.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday at the Movies: "The Interview," North Korea, and The Guardians of Peace--You Can't Buy This Kind of Publicity

Sony didn't pull the movie because they're scared. They pulled the movie because all the theaters said they were not going to run it.

George Clooney

That is what happens when corporate lawyers begin using words like litigation and liability in the board rooms of theater chains. It is unclear exactly how North Korea could pull off a terrorist attack on your local AMC multiplex if it dared show a comedy about the assassination of its leader. However, the philosophy right now is its  best to err on the side of caution and avoid the chance of a massive payout.

Unfortunately caution in this instance appears a tad like cowardice. At least that's what it seems when you do exactly what the clowns who issued dire threats of terrorism want at the very moment they wanted it. Especially after Sony announced it would not release "The Interview" in any form and appeared ready to eat the entire $42 million the studio spent on making it.

At the moment the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is maintaining its innocence in the cyber attack on Sony Pictures. They say they have no idea who the hackers, the self proclaimed "Guardians of Peace," are, even though they did call the looting of Sony's electronic records, "a righteous deed." The FBI on the other hand disagrees and said, "the tools and infrastructure of the attack are similar to previous activity from North Korea."

After Barack Obama promised a proportionate response the North Koreans, God bless 'em, issued a statement offering a, "proposal for a joint investigation" into the hack attack. Then, typically, threatened the U.S. with, "serious consequences," if we didn't agree to the "proposal."

This after they called the movie, "A most blatant act of terrorism and war," and promised, "merciless counter measures" if it was released.

Well what do you expect from an outfit who used to routinely kidnap Japanese citizens and take them back to North Korea to teach their spies how to speak the language. Not to mention a place run by a dictator who executed his own uncle, according to one report, by feeding him to a pack of ravenous dogs. Yes, it is easy to see the concepts of freedom of expression and diplomacy just don't, as we say, compute in the DPRK.

Besides the proportional response bit, the president also said Sony had made a mistake by pulling the picture. Although, in all honesty, it seems silly to release it if the only place you can find to show it is The Winchester Drive In Theater in south Oklahoma City. Obama added, "We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States."

Sony pictures CEO, Michael Lynton shot back at Obama saying the company wanted everyone to see the film, seemingly confirming what Clooney said. That still doesn't explain why the corporation announced it wouldn't distribute the movie on DVD, or put it on some premium pay for view outlet. Of course Lynton knows exactly what sort of information is now in the hands of the Guardians of Peace which could be the reason. Indeed, the Amy Pascal-Scott Rudin jokes about what movies America's first black president likes may well be the least damaging emails which could be made public.

So, who knows if "The Interview," will ever see the inside of a theater, or not. One thing is for sure though--if Sony and some chain finds the courage, Seth Rogen and everyone else involved with making it, including the studio, are going to rake in tons of cash. The North Koreans and the Guardians of Peace, whoever and where ever they are, have guaranteed it.

As someone once said, you can't buy this kind of publicity.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Old Cuban Policy: The Quality is More Myth Than Satisfying

Here is how long it has been going on. In October of 1960, while Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, the government of the United States banned all U.S. exports, except for food and medicine to Cuba. On February 7, 1961 John F. Kennedy took it a step further by announcing all Cuban made goods would be banned from these shores.

The embargo would include those Cuban cigars he loved so much. Since he knew how things were going to break in advance, Jack Kennedy ordered his Press Secretary to make a cigar run a couple of days before the ban went into effect. Years later Pierre Salinger wrote that the next morning he personally delivered 1,201 Cuban made Petit H. Upmann cigars to the White House. It is unclear if JFK had smoked them all before that terrible day in Dallas two and a half years later.

The whole embargo was meant to put so much duress on the Cuban economy that the regime of Fidel Castro would collapse. Then came the CIA backed Bay of Pigs invasion which failed in part because, to the surprise of all those expert analysts in Langley, the Cuban people refused to rise up in support of the exiles hitting the beach. The last major crisis was in 1962 when the Russians began installing offensive nuclear weapons on the island. Before it was over the entire world came to within a hair of Armageddon.

Since then the Berlin Wall has been torn down and the old Soviet Union broke apart. The communist Chinese have proven themselves to be far better at capitalism than the capitalists on Wall St. and we have an embassy in Hanoi, a town we were bombing the living shit out of in the late 1960's.

However when it came to Cuba nothing changed. That includes the government of Fidel and now Raul Castro. Yes they survived Eisenhower and Kennedy, then Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, another Bush, and Barack Obama. That is a half century plus of American presidents.

One could safely say the policy initiated back when this old man was ten years old hasn't worked.

This morning, while basically admitting to the utter failure of the American strategy, the president took action to begin the normalization of relations with Cuba. According to a variety of sources it took a year of secret negotiations in places like Canada and the Vatican to get to this point.

The deal included the release of American Alan Gross from a Cuban prison, along with a Cuban described only as a U.S. intelligence asset who has been languishing in a cell for 20 or so years. The Cubans got back three of their people being held in American lock ups.

It didn't take long for a couple of politicians of Cuban descent to start howling. Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ completely ignored what Obama said about the exchange of that freed asset. He was quoted as saying, "Lets be clear this was not a humanitarian act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American."

Florida republican senator Marco Rubio jabbered something about none of this doing anything except enabling the Castro regime to become a permanent fixture for generations.

First, Obama was quite clear in his speech. The release of Gross was not tied to any sort of trade. The swap was strictly their three spies for our one.

As for Rubio's nonsense, Obama said, "I don't believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect different results."

That's right, Senator. Maybe we should try something new for a change, because what we've been doing certainly hasn't worked.

Both of those clowns might want to take a look at the results of a Pew Poll taken in February of this year. It found 56% of Americans were in favor of improved relations with Cuba as opposed to 35% who are opposed. In Florida, even with a large Cuban-American population, the numbers were a stunning 63% for relaxing relations to 30% wanting to retain the status quo.

Of course executive action can only go so far. While Obama can set up an embassy in Havana, change travel restrictions, and loosen up rules on the amount of cash being sent by Americans to relatives living on the island, he needs a majority of both houses of congress to lift the embargo. And we all know how well that has worked out for him lately.

Yes, if you're an American cigar aficionado who has never smoked a genuine Cuban don't count on getting your hands on one any time soon.

Hey, trust me, it isn't anything to fret about. I've smoked a few over the years in places like Grenada, Belize, and Canada--their quality is more myth than satisfying. 

Indeed, in the end, they are rather like the embargo itself.

Ladies and gentlemen, with that in mind, the bar is open.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Two Years Ago Yesterday in Newtown

Two years ago yesterday Adam Lanza began his morning by killing his mother as she lay in her bed. He then he drove over to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Prior to blowing his own diseased brains out he murdered 20 students, babies really and six staff members. He was able to run up the body count quickly because he was using his mom's Bushmaster XM15-E25. She had been teaching him to shoot over the years so he would learn "discipline and responsibility."

According to a Wall Street Journal story written by Joseph De Avila Bushmaster Firearms International is owned by the Remington Outdoor Company. It is, in turn, owned by Cerberus Capital Management. Shortly after Lanza ran amok Cerberus claimed they would sell Remington, but the article says Cerberus claims they haven't found a buyer yet. In addition there is an outfit named Camfour which distributes Bushmaster products to retailers such as Riverview Gun Sales of East Windsor, Connecticut. Riverview Gun Sales is where Nancy Lanza legally purchased the murder weapon.

Now, 24 months after the nightmare at Sandy Hook, all those different entities are named in a law suit filed by nine of the victims families. De Avila writes that the paper work has been handed over to a state marshal who has 30 days to serve the defendants.

De Avila quotes Jillian Soto, the sister of Victoria Soto who died that day, as saying, "We keep seeing this happen. We keep seeing mass shootings at schools. And something has to be done." He also quoted her brother, Carlos who said, "If nothing is going to change federally we might as well try in court."

He is right, nothing is going to change on the federal level as long as the National Rifle Association bribes and extorts member of congress with boat loads of money and vile threats. Nothing is going to change because huge numbers of Americans have a sick and overpowering fetish when it comes to firearms. If you even hint at removing something like a Bushmaster XM15 from store shelves they whirl like dervishes and howl to the moon.

De Avila cited Remington's CEO, George Kollitides as handing out the same old bull about a year ago in an interview. He fell back on the, "it isn't the gun's fault" excuse which we hear ad nauseam from those who feel they can't get an erection with out a weapon somewhere close at hand. He ultimately claimed Adam Lanza and Adam Lanza alone was responsible for the butchery that bright winter day.

Yes, it isn't our fault the kid was bat shit crazy. His mother should have known better.

Well she didn't and she ended up being the first to go. Hell, she was so oblivious it has been widely reported her Christmas present to Adam that year was a gift certificate to a gun store. If  the deadly little geek hadn't gone off his nut when he did he could have cashed it in for a weapon with practically no questions asked. That is what Jimmy Holmes did in Colorado. He was as mad as a hatter on acid and he was able to arm himself better than many guerrilla armies. So did Seung-hiu Cho before he opened fire at Virginia Tech. The list goes on and on.

De Avila says the suit will charge that everyone involved with the manufacture, distribution and sale of the weapon, "...sold a firearm unfit for civilian use." In other words, if General Dynamics were to sell a M1A2 Abrams tank to Ted Nugent they would be just as culpable as he would be after he used it to assault the Democratic National Convention.

The attorney representing the plaintiffs was quoted as saying, "There is so much ample evidence of the inability of the civilian world to control these weapons that it is no longer reasonable to entrust them for that purpose. How many massacres do there have to be before that is?"

Unfortunately the answer to his question isn't known at this time, because it is painfully obvious we haven't gotten there yet.

No other industrialized nation in the world would put up with this madness. Are they any less free than we are?

In fact, in the final analysis, we can seriously question how free Americans really are if millions of citizens are too frightened to leave home without a gun. That doesn't sound like freedom, but it does reek of chaos and anarchy, not to mention clinical paranoia.

Will the law suit be successful? Probably not. Even if it is initially won, all those corporate lawyers, backed by an unlimited supply of cash, will drag it through an unending appeals process and eventually they'll find a judge somewhere to overturn the verdict.

In every sense of the word America is addicted to guns.

And like all addictions it will eventually kill us. Just ask the people in Newtown, Connecticut. They have the grave stones to prove it.

sic vita est


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rectal Hydration in the Name of Truth, Justice, and the American Way

The sheer ugliness of it is breathtaking. There is no other way to describe things like rectal hydration, sleep deprivation, prolonged standing, and stress positions.

The Senate report on CIA interrogation techniques in the years following the 2001 attacks includes all those terms and more. There is also stuff like secret prisons located in dark corners of places such as Poland and Thailand, not to mention cover ups intended to keep people like then Secretary of State Colin Powell from, as one memo put it, "blowing his stack."

Yes, when it comes to that sort of business it is best to keep the decent people out of the loop. There is no telling what they might say, or do in response to all the gruesome brutality being committed in the name of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

There are currently two versions of the usefulness of what the CIA prefers to describe as "enhanced interrogation." The first is expressed by people such as Georgia republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. It is that water boarding and the like was a necessary evil, but it provided us with viable intelligence and prevented further attacks. The second is it didn't do diddly squat and in fact led the CIA on many a wild goose chase. That is the report's conclusion.

It is also the opinion of Senator John McCain, R-AZ. He should know. McCain is the only sitting U.S. politician who has been on the wrong end of such goings on. In his words, "I know from first hand experience that harsh treatment of prisoners does not provide accurate intelligence."

That would be the old, Tell Them What They Want to Hear Rather Than What You Really Know response after having the nozzle of a water hose shoved up your ass.

According to the report it is exactly what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did on several occasions while he was the guest of the CIA. It was something the people who were performing the "enhanced interrogation" seemed to realize, although they kept on doing it for several weeks even after practically everyone at the top had come to the same conclusion.

Apparently the methods used by CIA operatives were developed by two psychologists who have been identified as James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Their firm landed a $180 million contract from the government in order to come up with lovely ideas such as confining a prisoner in a small coffin like box for days on end. NBC reports the contract was terminated in 2009, but by then Mitchell and Jessen had already been paid $81 million for their creative input.

The report says neither of them had any interrogation experience, didn't speak Arabic, and had no real knowledge of Al Qaeda, or its personnel. Mitchell, who reportedly spent 30 years in the Air Force, was quoted by NBC as saying those charges are, "...flat wrong."

In fact, as far as he is concerned, the whole report is nothing more than a $40 million scam. He released a statement saying, "What they are asking you to believe is that multiple directors of the CIA and analysts who made their living for years doing this lied to the federal government, or were too stupid to know that the intelligence they were getting wasn't useful."

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden went even further. He told NBC none of this horrific shit should even be considered torture. Mr. Hayden who served as the Spy In Chief from 2006 to 2009 also said the treatment the prisoners received was mild compared to what happens in other parts of the world. In other words there are plenty of people out there who should be so lucky.

Well, you have to say something don't you.

On the other end of the spectrum Senator Mark Udall, D-CO claims the subterfuge is ongoing to this day. He says current CIA Director John Brennan promised complete cooperation with the investigation during his confirmation hearing. According to Udall the very moment Brennan became the agency's head he did an about face and abetted by Barack H. Obama himself, continues to hide the truth from the American public.

Whatever the case might be the report makes it clear that those among us who still claim the United States of America is a morally superior nation might want to rethink their position.

There are plenty of governments on this ball who treat prisoners savagely. Tragically we are one of them. That terrible truth isn't going to go away no matter what the excuses.

The uber patriots will probably continue to deny it. The rest of us, if we really believe in America, can't afford to.


Monday, December 8, 2014

The Five Million Dollar Brain Freeze, Anna Chapman's Proposal, and Backing Out of Dinner: We All Have Our Weaknesses

Sometimes things just don't work out.

They certainly didn't for Bob Stoops early last Saturday evening. Mr. Stoops is paid $5 million a year to be the head coach of the University of Oklahoma's football team. The Sooners, as they are known, were clinging to a seven point lead with a little over one minute to play against Oklahoma State. They were also facing fourth down and fourteen yards to go. Stoops called for the obvious play. His team punted the ball to OSU. The person set to receive the kick was a young man named Tyreek Hill. He is primarily a track guy and is really, really fast. So fast in fact, this past spring, during an indoor meet, he ran a hundred meters in a time which would have placed him 5th at the last Olympics.

The ball was kicked and the coverage was superb. Hill was forced to call for a fair catch at the OSU 15 yard line with 1:01 left in the game. Then things went south. An Oklahoma State lineman had run  into the OU punter and a penalty was called. At this point Bob Stoops had two choices. First, decline the five yard penalty, thereby forcing OSU, who had no time outs left, to drive 85 yards in 61 seconds of game time for a tying touchdown. Second, take the penalty, move the ball five yards forward, but be forced to kick once more to Tyreek Hill.

Proving a huge salary doesn't prevent brain freeze Coach Stoops chose to take the penalty and kick the ball again. This time the coverage wasn't so great. Tyreek Hill caught the football then took off down the sideline, doing  an amazing imitation of the comic book super hero, The Flash. He covered the 92 yards to the Oklahoma end zone at a speed judged to be at about Mach3. Suddenly the game was tied and headed to overtime. Shortly thereafter Oklahoma State kicked a game winning field goal and people like me began wondering aloud if Stoops, despite the size of his paycheck, was on the take.

Besides the ol' coach, others haven't done so hot lately either. The Mail online is reporting that a defector has said the head honchos of the Russian spy agency FSB (formerly the KGB) ordered resident hottie Anna Chapman to seduce and marry American Edward Snowden.

Snowden is the former NSA dude who is currently living in Russia because he released reams of classified documents to the world. Many consider him a valiant whistle blower while the government of these United States calls him a traitor and wants to chuck his ass into the slammer for more years than anyone can count.

The defector, Boris Karpichkov, claims Chapman, nee Kushchyenko, who at one point married a British citizen in order to be able to spy on the UK, had met Snowden only once. Despite the apparent unfamiliarity she proposed to him in July. The working theory was once the couple was married Snowden would be eligible to become a Russian citizen. Then, after he became one, the government could hang onto him, because Russians need official permission to go anywhere outside the country.

Yes, it sounds a bit convoluted and overly hopeful, but according to Karpichkov it is what happened. Unfortunately for the Russians, Snowden smelled a rat and didn't bite on the proposal. Well, either that or he simply wasn't impressed with it. It seems Ms. Chapman popped the question via twitter with this highly romantic, not to mention provocative message, "Snowden, will you marry me?"

When she isn't marrying Brits, proposing to American fugitives, or spying in some other capacity The Mail reports Anna Chapman is a popular, "TV Presenter," model, and that she owns a brand of clothing.
Finally we have Paul Rosalie. Rosalie, according to the Discovery Channel, is a snake expert who is out to save the Amazon rain forest. He is so dedicated to his cause he convinced the boobs who run the cable network to televise him being eaten alive by a giant Green Anaconda.

The show, which was apparently taped months ago, aired last night. Rosalie, dressed in a, "crush proof suit," reportedly spent an hour and forty minutes of the two hour event trying unsuccessfully to rustle up a 27 foot long monster. According to Deadline's Lisa deMoraes when that failed a substitute snake was provided and the meal began.

Just minutes into the feast it dawned on Mr. Rosalie the whole idea might be a tad flawed. According to deMoraes he quickly called for his crew to rescue him and they pulled him out of the coils of death.

The Discovery Channel was immediately bombarded by a slew of tweets which at best can be called derisive. Perhaps because I do everything I can to avoid the fully functioning insane my first thought when looking at some of the caustic messages was, why were you rubes watching this nonsense in the first place? What did you think you'd gain from it? But, hey, that's just me.

Of course I should never cast stones because I'm certainly not without sin. After all, I was one of the 85,00 saps who spent $125 for a ticket, then sat in the cold and fog for nearly four hours only to watch Bob Stoops have a mental meltdown worthy of both Russian spymasters and self proclaimed snake experts.

Indeed, we all have our weaknesses

sic vita est


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eric Garner and Daniel Pantaleo: No True Bill

Parents should tell their children to fear criminals and not the police.

Patrick Lynch, President of the New York Police Department Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Yeah, well that has been getting a little tougher to do after the last six months, or so.

Back in July, Eric Garner, a nearly morbidly obese African American who suffered from asthma, was allegedly selling individual, untaxed, cigarettes on a street. Apparently it was and is a crime worthy of intense investigation, not to mention incredibly aggressive enforcement. You know, along the lines of a squad of narcs busting a crazed cocaine fiend who is working for the Russian mob.

A group of NYPD officers led by Daniel Pantaleo violently took him down onto the concrete sidewalk during an arrest. In an amateur video which shows the tail end of the incident, Garner is backing away from one cop, while raising his hands and saying something along the lines of, "...get away from me." At almost the exact same moment Pantaleo, who was behind the suspect, wraps his forearm across Garner's throat and hangs on for dear life as the big man first lurches back and then forward to the ground.

At the bottom of the ensuing dog pile you can hear Garner saying, "I can't breathe," over and over as Pantaleo continues to hold on and other officers press down on his head and back.

According to the New York PBA there was never any "choke hold" applied to Eric Garner because, hey, choke holds are against department policy. According to them officer Pantaleo applied a legal "take down move" which is standard operating procedure for NYC police. Despite those reassuring words, everyone who has watched the video immediately steps into that foggy realm known as, the fine line. To say you don't is utter denial of what you're witnessing.

Mr. Garner died shortly afterward. The New York City Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide. The other day a Staten Island grand jury disagreed and returned a verdict of, "no true bill," which essentially cleared Daniel Pantaleo of any wrong doing.

Crowds of protesters immediately took to the streets. New York City mayor, Bill DeBlasio described the jury's decision as, "one that many in our city did not want."

His statement prompted Pat Lynch to accuse the mayor of throwing the police, "under the bus." It also moved him to say, "We feel badly there was a loss of life, but unfortunately Mr. Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest. The lesson learned should be to comply with police officers even if they feel an arrest is unjust." He went on to add, "You cannot resist arrest because resisting arrest leads to confrontation. Confrontation leads to tragedy."

In other words, do what we say and let us cart you off into a system where the very concept of justice is completely dependent on your ability to afford a competent lawyer--or--we have every right to kill you. Right, that notion certainly must inspire confidence in persons of color.

Of course there are a slew of fairy tales which many in this great land insist on filling their heads with, despite wide spread evidence to the contrary. Not the least of them is you're innocent until proven guilty. Another being everyone gets a fair trial. Such fables are believed mostly by white people because it reinforces their fantasy that the United States is the greatest democracy in the world and every citizen is treated the same.

In the end, no matter what the perspective, everyone here must acknowledge there are a lot of evil people in this nation and too many of them have guns. And--no one will ever be able to accuse the police of having an easy job. However, if we actually believe in America and the freedom we want to think it represents, there are no blank checks when it comes to enforcing the law.

Having a badge doesn't excuse you from choking someone out, or shooting an unarmed kid. Everyone, especially the police, has to be responsible for what they do.

 Hopefully at some point all of us will figure that out.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Rand Paul Has a Problem in Kentucky and Jeb Bush Talks to the Money Men

Chuck Todd writes that Rand Paul has a bit of a problem in Kentucky. According to the NBC News story Paul claims he will run for re-election to the senate in 2016. While that is all fine and dandy a state law says his name can't appear twice on a ballot. In other words if Paul seeks the republican nomination for the senate seat he now holds his name can't be on the list of GOP presidential hopefuls during the same primary.

Todd says Paul's people are attacking this conundrum on two fronts. First they are trying to get the law changed so he can attempt the double dip. That might be tougher than it sounds though since democrats control the state house. In case the maneuver doesn't pan out his crew is also trying to get the selection process changed from a voter controlled primary election to a caucus. The working theory is that since caucuses don't have paper ballots--the totals are tabulated through either a voice vote, or show of hands--technically his name wouldn't appear twice on a ballot.

God bless lawyers. They never cease to amaze.

In the same story Todd reports John Ellis Bush sat down at a conference of CEOs sponsored by The Wall Street Journal yesterday. Better known as Jeb, the former Florida governor, made it clear if he did run for the republican presidential nomination it would be on his terms.

He was quoted as telling the group, "I don't know if I'd be a good candidate, or a bad one. I kinda know how a republican can win whether it is me, or someone else--and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles. It is not an easy task to be honest with you."

No it isn't. When he tells all those tea party whack jobs he is for immigration reform and Common Core in the schools they are going to scream bloody murder right before they vote for some cretin like Ted Cruz.

In response to a question asking if a republican could win the nomination without advocating things like free fire zones on the border he said, "Well frankly no one really knows that because it hasn't been tried recently." Yes, well there is a reason it hasn't.

In the end, Bush might just be the guy the GOP needs to woo some of those Hispanic voters in 2016. His wife was born in Mexico, he has a B.A. in Latin American Studies, and he speaks fluent Spanish. The problem he has is getting to them. As we've seen time and time again the influence of the ultra right in republican primaries far outweighs their capacity to win general elections--and many a soul has been sold to them.

Of course, before we get all warm and fuzzy about Jeb Bush it should be remembered he not only told African American voters he'd do nothing for them, but ultimately he was the guy in charge in Florida when Al Gore got so viciously screwed.

Indeed, once a werewolf always a werewolf.

And these dogs don't even need a full moon.