Monday, January 31, 2011

Weather Perspective

Today in Thule, Greenland the temperature is 12oF. That is ten degrees above average. The high temperature in Sydney, Australia today was 95oF, 17 degrees above normal for this date. The temperature today in Nome, Alaska will be 29oF, sixteen degrees above average.

One cause for the revolution in Egypt is a spike in food prices caused, in part, by a severe drought in Russia

So, while it may be snowing across much of the United States that doesn't mean global climate change is a hoax. Or unimportant.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Egyptian Revolutions: a History

This is the third revolution in Egypt in the last 100 years.

The 1919 Revolution
Prior to the First World War Egypt was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire but was effectively controlled by England. Following the war England sought to absorb Egypt fully into their empire. In 1919, Egyptian nationalists tried to travel to the Paris Peace Conference to propose independence but were arrested by the British and imprisoned on Malta.

This caused a popular uprising in Egypt similar to what is happening today. Several weeks of mostly non-violent strikes and demonstrations shut down the country. The revolt joined Muslims and Copts, men and women.

Revolt and negotiations lasted until 1922 when the British accepted independence for Egypt and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.

The 1952 Revolution
The monarchy was a bad idea as it quickly descended into corruption and petty excesses (think Hosni Mubarak in 2011). For the army, the last straw was its defeat at the hands of Israel in 1948.

Gamal Nasser and Anwar Sadat, among others, formed the Free Officers Movement. In 1952 the officers began a revolution. Really just a military coup. King Farouk abdicated, setting the state for a "republic" that was really just a different kind of monarchy where army officers would be "elected" president and rule for life.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt and USA Tear Gas

The Egyptian police are using American made tear gas against the Egyptian people.
It doesn't matter that it is not American troops lobbing tear gas grenades at the Egyptian people. It doesn't matter that Egypt bought the tear gas from a private company (using American aid money).

It does matter that the streets of Cairo are littered with weapons used against the populous proudly stamped "Made In USA." That matters more than any amount of mealy-mouthed words that try to straddle a fence made out of razor wire.

Such is the price America pays as a country owned and operated by a military-industrial complex.

Addition note: The same company that made the tear gas wafting through the streets of Cairo also sold the tear gas Tunisia used a couple weeks ago and Israel used to attack West Bank villages last month. The USA, not so much spreading democracy as foul smelling chemicals wherever we go.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Genie Out of the Bottle

Thoughts on the Egyptian Revolution.

The Information Revolution is a genie. The question before the court is will the governments of the world see it as an evil genie that has to be shoved back into its bottle at any cost.

Two centuries ago the Industrial Revolution reshaped the world. While it was an economic revolution it also reshaped society and caused the death of the prevailing governmental structure, absolute monarchy.

Revolutions in France, Germany, Italy, and Russia led to a mixture of democracies and military dictatorships. When industrialization reached China and Japan their monarchies either fell or became powerless figureheads.

Entire power structures, from kings and dukes to lowly baronets, collapsed. Some lost their heads while others simply fell from being great lords to normal human. The point of this discussion is not who lost power or who gained it, only that it happened.
the last shall be first, and the first last. ~ Matt. 20:16
The Information Revolution may be bringing a similar upheaval of social power. We are certainly seeing it arising in monarchical countries like Iran, Tunisia and Egypt. But the rumblings of social revolution are being heard across the globe.

What will governments do? If the 18th century monarchies knew that the Industrial Revolution would end their power the kings would have shut down the mills, torn up the railroads, and smothered the Industrial Revolution in its sleep even if it condemned their countries to centuries of abject poverty. In Egypt today the government is turning the clock back a hundred years in the hopes of quelling an uprising wrought by the Information Revolution.

Will the nobility of the Industrial Revolution (bankers and industrialists) and the minions who serve them in government decide that the free flow of information is too dangerous? Will they try to silence the information web that encompasses the globe? Will they try to put the genie back in the bottle?

Can they?

Egypt and the Giant Problem

We'll see if slamming Egypt back into the Stone Age will be enough to quell the democracy movement in that oldest of all civilizations. Or will they have to resort to the mass murder of their citizens - bringing peace through bloodshed.

Iran demonstrated that it is possible to put a lid of popular protests if you are (a) brutal enough, (b) you have a closed society with little outside contact, and (c) your economy is not dependent on international goodwill. Countries will by Iranian oil no matter what they do.

Egypt's monarchy is not so lucky. Two of their three largest companies (combined over $7 billion in market cap) are in telecommunications. At this moment it appears that both companies may no longer exist. Then there is Egypt's tourism industry. With the exception of battle-hardened war correspondents Egypt's hotels will be empty as long as the government is oppressing its citizens.

Did You Say Egypt's Monarchy?
Why, yes I did. Hosni Mubarak has been president for over 30 years and intends his son Gamal to be his successor. Blood succession is one of the hallmarks of a monarchy. If the rumors the Gamal Mubarak has fled the country are true then he will probably get one of those old timey king nicknames - Gamal the Chicken.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Can Computers Read Our Collective Minds?

Scientists think they have programmed a computer to be able to read the social subconscious and predict where political unrest may happen.

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of current events could have predicted the same top five (Iran, Sri Lanka, Russia, Georgia, and Israel) as the computer. It doesn't take a genius just the knowledge that a recent history of violence tends to repeat itself until resolved by significant change.

Even those that are mentioned in the article as "surprises" really aren't. Italy (politics), Ireland (economics), Jordan (Palestinians), and Columbia (drug lords) are ripe for unrest. Egypt was a power keg waiting for a spark; Tunisia was the spark. The proof of an oracle is not in whether he gets something right, dumb luck is right every so often, but what he gets wrong.
Just as accurate as Milcord and way cheaper.
Web Bot is touted as the Delphic Oracle of silicon. It scans the internet for keywords and makes predictions based on the results. What it does is try to make draw conclusions from the random noise buzzing around the internet. Believers claim it predicted 9-11; detractors point out it predicted WWIII would began two months ago. Oops.
Maybe I was sleeping.
Bottom line, computers have not yet reached the level of godhood.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And the Home of the Frightened

Remember this chart from yesterday?
What happened in the 1980's that changed America into a country that needs to lock millions of her citizens away in prison? Two words: Ronald Reagan.

The Politics of Fear
For nearly a century a central focus of Republican politics has been that Americans must be terrified of their neighbors. The Red Scares and McCarthyism had Republicans preaching there was a Commie lurking under every bed. Only by spying on your neighbors and turning them in at the first sign of liberal thought could you "protect freedom."

While McCarthy's apprentice, Richard Nixon, started it, Reagan perfected the art of subtly blaming African-Americans for all of the nation's woes. Reagan introduced the phrase "welfare queen" to the nation.

While Reagan was never so crass as to use overtly racist imagery (like George Bush Sr. and his Willie Horton ads, William Bennett who claimed that America could reduce crime by simply aborting all black babies, and everything from Jesse Helms), he did argue for and see pass draconian sentencing laws and began a prison building boom in his "war" on a non-existent crime wave.

Prison Privatization
The modern private for profit prison industry began in 1984 under Reagan with the Corrections Corporation of America.
After the Civil War southern states used the criminal justice system as a substitute for slavery and created chain gangs. Private prisons have the same economic model. Also, most states rent out their prisoners to private companies as cheap labor.

Prisoners are advertised as cheap labor. They are also marketed as disposable labor. Where free Americans might demand safety equipment, prison labor has to go where it is told and do what it is ordered. 

The problem with this economic model is that murderers, rapists, and other psychopaths don't make for reliable workers so there is a premium on filling prisons with non-violent offenders. In the Federal prison system less than 4% of the prisoners were convicted of violent crimes. Including state prisons, roughly half of all prisoners are non-violent. California is releasing violent criminals ahead of the more marketable non-violent commodity, er, prisoners.

Don't expect an end any time soon to our American Gulag. Too many people are making too much money on our 21st century version of indentured servitude.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Land of the (Not) Free

Inspired by this short DailyKos posting.

  • At best, having a slogan of "Land of the Free" is ironic, at worse it is a cruel joke.
  • When President Obama was criticizing China's human rights record I couldn't help respecting President Hu's restraint. He could have said, "the country that hold such a large percentage of its citizens within prisons has no right to lecture others."
  • Per capita, the US has seven times as many citizens in prison as China (source - US #1, China #71). Even in raw numbers the United State (over 2 million) imprisons more people than the much larger Chinese dictatorship (1.5 million).
  • Nearly 12% of young African-Americans between the ages 25 and 29 are imprisoned. The rate of all black males in prison (4.8%) is five times higher than South Africa under apartheid (0.8%). (source also this source)
  • The state of California spends as much on imprisoning citizens as it does on higher education. Anyone familiar with California's budget problems knows the effect the prison lobby has on state spending.
  • In raw numbers, California (246,000) edges out Texas (223,000). Georgia and Louisiana have the highest rate of imprisonment, both exceeding one percent of all citizens. (source)
By far the strangest county in the United States is Anderson County, Texas. Anderson County has a population of 57,000 people of which fully a quarter are incarcerated in the several prison facilities the state has crowded into that county. It makes for weird demographics (Fewer than 40% of the county is female.).

Read also: The Straight Dope, the Sentencing Project, and two from me the World of Private Prisons and the American Police State

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stupidity in the News

Jesse Kelly - Champion Dickwad
Jesse Kelly is the guy that Congresswoman Gabby Giffords defeated last November. After Giffords survived that assassination attempt Kelly wasted no time hiring a lawyer and inquiring about vacating her seat and forcing a special election.

Kelly, remember, held an event last June where he invited people to shoot an M16 to help "remove Gabrielle Giffords from office." Kelly has backed away from demanding a special election mostly because people told him it was never going to happen and Governor Brewer told him he was being a stupid fuck.

It's really hard to come up with an adjective that properly describes Kelly and his supporters. Calling him a "perverted little wanker" is unfair to tiny cock masturbaters. "Dickwad" (used above) is an insult to worthless pieces of shit who are all head and shoulders above Kelly. Saying Kelly is "beneath contempt" grossly understates his contemptibleness.

Clearly Kelly is a ghoul with morality of Albert Fish and the sensitivity of slime mold. When the Zonies come to San Diego this summer I hope I do not see people with Jesse Kelly bumper stickers because I don't think I could resist the urge to spit in their disgusting faces.

Jury Cat
On the lighter side, in Boston a cat was called to jury duty and, according to Fox News, an effort to have the cat excused was rejected and the tabby will have to appear in court. Except, the story is a year old and not true, but when did Fox let the truth get in the way of a story.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What Is the Value of Humanity?

There are many ways to calculate the value of human life.
It is rather disconcerting to realize that to my health insurance company I am worth more as marketable replacement parts than as a living individual. But the real value of human life is in the caring.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain. ~ Emily Dickinson

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Betelgeuse Going Supernova Would Be Cool

"Cool" is probably the wrong adjective. I love the news story that the star Betelgeuse might go supernova in 2012.
Or as late as one million AD.
Sure, the story is just a way for an underfunded Australian astronomer to climb onto the 2012 apocalypse mania and that's fine.
Although some might feel gypped.
Still, having a second sun to play with would be fun. Photographers and artists could do all sorts of unique things with the double shadow effect. And, I can't imagine what the religious fundamentalists would do with it.
Nobody would expect it.
Although I'd really feel sorry for all the astrologers. When the nova receded and Betelgeuse becomes a faint little rock inside a fuzzy nebula, the constellation Orion would lose his right shoulder. He'll look all sad and lopsided.

Destroy the Village to Save It

It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.
This became an iconic quote from the Vietnam War (and, yes, it actually happened). It is American strategy in Afghanistan.
The village of Tarok Kolache was controlled by the Taliban. The Americans wanted to clear the village and were afraid of house-to-house fighting so they called in artillery and aerial bombardments to reduce the village to dust.

Of course, for commanders in the modern high-tech battlefield war just a big video game. All this reminds me of another old quote:
The bombing of Adowa failed to give us any satisfaction, owing to the fact that there were only small huts, which flattened out without raising smoke or flames. ~ Vittorio Mussolini during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1937

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hypochondria Nation

Last night I was indulging in a favorite pastime - whether I have the early symptoms of Dengue Fever or trypanosomiasis - when I came upon a simple realization. Americans are obsessed with being sick.
The fearsome eyelash mite.
Part of this is an understandable desire to get some value out of all the money being spent on health insurance. People with insurance pay, either themselves or through their jobs, an average of $8,000 a year.  For that kind of money you'd want something more than just an occasional cold that your doctor can't do a freaking thing about anyhow.

Another part is the inherent paranoia of Americans. We are afraid of foreigners, Muslims, children's books, even ourselves. So of course we are afraid of every tiny little microbe that ever existed - harmless or not.
A dust mite army.
Also the Pharmaceutical Industry
Drug companies spend billions of dollars trying to convince us that we are sick. Anyone with a television has seen countless commercials declaring normal bodily functions are signs of horrible diseases.

Take the history of heartburn. First, they change it to something more frightening like Acid Reflux Disease. When it was just heartburn you would cut out that carne asada burrito just before going to bed and be happy. Now that it's a disease you go all crazy and demand the latest, greatest, most expensive new drug.

Companies use medical journals to promote their new diseases (and drug cures). They flat out bribe doctors. And they go to considerable ends to convince people that a horrible, disease-ridden death is just around the corner.

Now, back to me. I've narrowed my symptoms down to beriberi or small pox.

Read also:
Norman Cousins essay-A Nation of Hypochondriacs
PR Watch-Disease Mongering
Dr. Rath-Business With Disease
a couple from Huff Post on Disease Mongering by Dr. Larry Dossey and Dr. Andrew Weil

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Twenty Years War

Lest we forget, the Iraq War has been going on for twenty years.

The aerial bombardment for Operation Desert Storm began a Jan. 17, 1991. While the hot fighting lasted only a few days the effects included inspiring a generation of al Qaeda terrorists through US military bases in Saudi Arabia.

And the war continues into its third decade.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The All Seeing FBI

The FBI is terrified of you. They just know you're up to no good what with your being a vegetarian and all.

Then there are all you religious fanatics like Quakers and Catholics. And what about those birders and whale watchers? I mean they are always looking  through binoculars, like that's not suspicious.

Consider university professors. They keep teaching people, sharing ideas, and using phrases like "academic freedom." Damned subversive, that is. Don't forget those centers of terrorist thought, libraries.

The truth is, if you have even done anything remotely intelligent or showed signs of having a social conscious the FBI considers you a security threat. It doesn't matter if you are a pacifist or a child, the FBI is scared shitless of you.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Seven Hellholes

Hellhole (n): A place of unremitting suffering and torment. An evil place devoid of hope.

7. The Black Hole of Calcutta
In the 18th century, British control of India was in the hands of a private business, the East India Company - which was kind of like Halliburton and Blackwater controlling Iraq (don't they?).  The East India Company had its own army and navy and even engaged in sea battles against rival companies.

In 1756, the East India Company owned Calcutta and was building up their private army. The Nawab of Bengal saw this as a threat to his rule (because it was). He ordered the private army out of his land but the company, being much like Blackwater, ignored the order.

The Nawab attacked and defeated company troops. The 146 defeated mercenaries were locked into a 14x18 foot room overnight. According to one survivor, 123 of those prisoners died that night from the heat, crowding, and trampling. Historians dispute if this ever really happened.

6. Devil's Island
A small island (35 acres) located off the coast of French Guiana.  In 1852, Napoleon III began a penal colony on the island for political prisoners and hardened criminals. The shackled prisoners were shipped across to the mainland and used as slave labor. Between the shark infested waters and mainland crocodiles few of the prisoners ever escaped.

The penal colony wasn't closed until 1952 and is now a popular tourist destination.

5. Guantanamo Bay
The modern Devil's Island of the United States. Look at the prisoners. They are shackled with thick gloves on their hands so they can feel nothing. They are blindfolded with ear muffs and face masks so they cannot see, hear, or smell. Even without waterboarding they are tortured daily with sensory deprivation. 

And there is the utter hopelessness because Congress is determined that the remaining prisoners will never be allowed to leave.

4. Lubyanka
There was a saying in Soviet Russia that Lubyanka prison was the tallest building in the world. That even from its deepest dungeons you could see Siberia. 
Lubyanka was headquarters to the KGB and before that to the NKVD and the Cheka. It was where political prisoners were first imprisoned and tortured before they were sent to disappear into the Siberian Gulag. During the lives of Felix Dzerzhinsky and Joe Stalin no place in the whole of the Soviet Union was more terrifying that the entrance to Lubyanka.

3. Andersonville
During the American Civil War Andersonville was the most notorious of the Confederate prisoner of war camps. In 1864, the Union stopped exchanging prisoners with the South on the sound but cruel calculus that the Confederacy would eventually run out of soldiers. The South found itself having to house tens of thousands of captured Yankees.

In Andersonville the prisoners were forbidden to build shelters. Their drinking water was also their sewer. A daily meal would consist of rancid grain and a couple ounces of beans. During the summer of 1864 prisoners were dying at a rate of over 100 a day. In all, a third of the camp's population, some 13,000 men, died of disease and starvation in just 14 months.

2. Choeung Ek
Choeunk Ek was one of the many Cambodian "killing fields."
One of American strategies during the Vietnam War was to bring neutral Cambodia into the war as an American ally. To that end the CIA funded a military coup in 1970. Having a corrupt American puppet running the country's government caused a Communist rebellion to blossom. The Communist Khmer Rouge was infinitely worse.

Upon gaining power the Khmer Rouge drove 2.5 million people out of the cities and onto collective farms. Having an education was an act of treason. Even wearing glasses was punishable by death as the Khmer Rouge strove to build an agrarian paradise unpolluted by intelligence. In all, over two million people, about a quarter of the country's population, died either at the hands of the Khmer Rouge or by starvation and disease.

1. Auschwitz
The word Auschwitz is now a synonym for Hell. The largest of the Nazi extermination camps, it is unknown how many souls passed through the gate shown above. Estimates are that over a million people died in the Auschwitz gas chambers. By the time Soviet troops reached the camp there were only 7,000 left alive to liberate and they were living skeletons.

Beyond the systematic mass murder were other horrors. There were the bizarre and hideous medical experiments of Josef Mengele and August Hirt's Jewish skeleton collection. In all of human history no place on earth has been a more unremitting place of pure evil than Auschwitz.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Martin Luther King, Non-Violence, and the Iraq War

Jeh C. Johnson made today the outrageous statement the Martin Luther King would support the Iraq and Afghan wars. I understand why Johnson said that, he's a lawyer whose job it is to argue that red is blue.

Martin Luther King and Satyagraha
Dr. King was not a passive man. He believed in aggressively and directly confronting evil. Such action require great courage and sacrifice and a willingness to suffer even unto death. Dr. King also believed that violence was always evil. He believed that physical violence in a righteous cause unravels all potential good and turns righteousness into evil.

Dr. King would not want the United States and the world to stand aside and do nothing to help the people of Iraq or Afghanistan (or Darfur). Insofar as Americans in these places are helping people - healing the wounded, educating children, protecting the innocent, seeking peace - then they are doing work that Dr. King would have approved of.

Insofar as Americans are bombing villagers, killing innocents (or even killing combatants), and maiming children they are performing acts that Dr. King would see as unqualified evil.
Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. ~ Martin Luther King's Nobel Lecture
If we assume that life is worth living, if we assume that mankind has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war and so let us this morning explore the conditions for peace. ~ MLK, A Christmas Sermon on Peace
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. ~ MLK, Beyond Vietnam
The United States spends more on military defense than all other nations of the world combined. Fifty-four percent of Federal spending goes to the military.

Sorry, Mr. Johnson, Dr. King would not support America's wars. A fact, Mr. Johnson, I believe you know very well.

Child Labor In America

What sort of heartless Bumble would condemn child labor laws as unconstitutional? How about Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

To be fair, Sen. Lee is not alone in this belief. Both Jeff Tucker and Bob Prechter add an allegedly educated veneer to the premise. Tucker accuses the New Deal of rigging unemployment numbers by cruelly taking jobs away from children and giving them to adults.
Child-labor laws were and are a blow against the freedom to work and a boost in government authority over the family. ~ Jeff Tucker
Prechter contends that child labor laws (and free public education) have created a generation of slackers and only by sending 12 year-olds back down into the mines will America be restored.
The economic crisis, child-labor laws, socialized educational costs, minimum wages, and a government-imposed culture of prolonged adolescence have combined to deny opportunity to an entire generation. ~ Bob Prechter
Lucky girl. In the USA
she'd be wasting her time in school.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Romanian Witch Tax

They used to burn them at stakes. Even today, there are witch trials held in the Transylvanian town of Sighisoara (albeit only as part of a package tour).

This month, in a desperate attempt to balance their budget, the Romanian government began taxing witches, fortune tellers, and astrologers. The witches are fighting back as only they know how - by casting spells and hexes on government officials.
So, if Romania is governed by a frog next month, you heard it here first.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Palin's Blood Libel Address

I was going to leave this alone. Other people have noted that Sister Sarah had found the only true victim of the Arizona assassination (Palin herself). And her Blood Libel Address has led to thoughtful reporting on the actual origin of the phrase "blood libel."

At the pain of helping Palin extract her foot from her mouth, there is a much more appropriate phrase she could have used that comes from American political history instead of a thousand years of genocide.

Waving the Bloody Shirt
It described how politicians used violent acts by brutal thugs as cudgels against innocent political opponents. However, the blood on that shirt was caused Ku Klux Klan attacks - beating, whippings, and lynchings. So, perhaps Sarah didn't want to anger her secessionist supporters in this sesquicentennial year of the War of Northern Aggression.

Safest would have been if Sarah had just quoted that old Coasters song.
He's gonna get caught
Just you wait and see
(Why's everybody always pickin' on me)

Childish Political Discourse

Forget more civil political discourse, I'd settle for more adult discourse.

If a Republican lawmaker from a liberal state had been shot by a person of color I'd expect the more vitriolic Democrats (Keith Olbermann) to catch flack and I'd  want them to man up and take the criticism like adults. That's not what happened. A Democrat was shot by an anti-government WASP so it is only natural that the Becks, Limbaughs, and Palins of the country catch some heat. And they are reacting like children.

The 'I'm Rubber Your Glue' Defense
The above link is just one of thousand of examples where Republicans respond to criticism by claiming that Democrats are being even more mean. Of course it sounds like a pathetic schoolyard whine about hurt feelings because that's what it is.

The Cooties Defense
This goes a bit further and claims that the shooter was infected by Democratic cooties and it doesn't matter what Sarah Palin said because Democratic cooties are more powerful. Part of this is the Demon Weed Sub-Defense which claims Loughner is a drugged up hippy atheist (i.e. average Democrat).

The 'What Cookie Jar' Defense
When a two year-old is caught standing over a broken cookie jar she'll go to comic lengths denying everything. Palin aide Rebecca Mansour took that stand when she claimed that Palin's famous "Cross Hairs Map" that targeted Congresswoman Giffords were really just "surveyor’s symbol." Like the two year-old, nobody believed that.

The 'Someone Else Did It' Defense
When denying doesn't work our two year-old will blame someone else - the dog, her brother, the neighbor, her imaginary friend. In this case the favorite someone else is Sheriff Clarence Dupnik who, apparently, should have preemptively arrested Loughner while surrounding Giffords with a phalanx of armed men to protect her.

The truth about who Jared Loughner was at the time of the attack will, hopefully, come with time. Until then, just grow up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Congressional Attacks

I was amazed to discover how very rare have been physical attacks upon sitting members of Congress. In over 200 years there have been only seven significant events resulting in just two deaths.

Griswold-Lyon Fight
In 1798, Congressman Roger Griswold (a John Adams supporter) accused Matthew Lyon (a Jefferson supporter) of spitting tobacco juice on him. Lyon also had been born in Ireland and, to Federalists, was not a real American. Griswold attacked Lyon from behind with his cane, Lyon defended himself with fire tongs.

Lyon was later imprisoned under the Alien and Sedition Acts and won reelection from his prison cell.

Jonathan Cilley
In 1838 Congressman Cilley of Maine accused a New York newspaper editor, James Webb, of corruption. Webb challenged Cilley to a duel and, being a cowardly bastard, delegated the actual dueling to another man, Congressman William Graves of Kentucky.

Graves was a hunter, Cilley a city boy with little knowledge of guns. Graves shot Cilley dead on the Bladensburg dueling grounds.

Charles Sumner
In 1856, Senator Sumner of Massachusetts made a fiery speech denouncing slavery. Three days later a South Carolina congressman, Preston Brooks, went onto the Senate floor and beat Sumner nearly to death with a cane. He was aided by another South Carolina congressman who used a gun to keep other senators from helping the defenseless Sumner.

It took Sumner three years to recover from the attack. Because Brooks broke his cane beating Sumner, Southerners responded by sending Brooks dozens of replacement canes. A Virginia newspaper wrote of the attack, "We consider the act good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequences. These vulgar abolitionists in the Senate must be lashed into submission."

The House Brawl
It was 1958, Congressman Laurence Keitt (the coward who held the gun during the Sumner attack) and Pennsylvania's Galusha Grow got into a shouting match on the House floor. It devolved into a fistfight which, in turn, fell into an all out brawl. The subject, of course, was slavery.

A couple years later (Dec. 1860) Grow challenged a North Carolina congressman to a duel but police arrested all the participants before anything happened.

The Gallery Gunman
In 1932, a Sears sporting goods clerk brandished a gun from the visitors gallery and demanded the right to speak about the Depression. He was talked into surrendering the gun by Congressman Melvin Maas. No one was hurt but the gun was loaded so it makes the list.

Puerto Rico Nationalists
In 1954, four Puerto Ricans fired automatic pistols from the gallery. Five congressmen were wounded; none killed.

In the early 1950's the United States converted Puerto Rico from a colony into a "commonwealth state." The feeling among nationalists at the time is that commonwealth was just another word for colony. The United States was brutal in suppressing rebellious Puerto Ricans. In Utuado, insurgents who surrendered were machine gunned. The leader of the revolt was tortured in prison.
Photo found here.
Nationalists retaliated by attacking Congress and attempting to assassinate President Truman.

Jim Jones had a cult. When a few people left his cult he hauled the rest, several hundred, to an isolated commune in Guyana where he could control their every thought. After a while word got back to families at home that conditions in Jonestown were terrible.

Congressman Leo Ryan led a team of officials and reporters to Jonestown to examine condition and help any Americans who wanted to go home. Only 14 of nearly 1000 people wanted to leave Jim Jones' commune but that was too many. When they got to the landing strip the Ryan delegation was attacked by Jones loyalists. Congressman Ryan was among the five dead.

Back at Jonestown, Jim Jones convinced his flock to commit mass suicide.

Lesser Events
History has seen other Congressional brawls plus the deaths of several other people who were not at the time sitting members of Congress including police officers, a non-voting delegate, and a former congressman. But, only two congressmen have died violently while in office. Given our violent history, that is amazing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rand Paul Wins

I was waiting for the first politician to run out that old, "guns don't kill people, people kill people" lie. Rand Paul wins the prize. The truth is:
Guns don't kill people, people with guns kill people.
Take guns away and the killing becomes incredibly more difficult.

Obama's Chief of Staff

I want to make it clear that I do not believe William Daley should be executed for his work as a JP Morgan executive. That is going to far, even for a banker of his ilk.

However, rather than spending the next two years leading the White House staff, I believe Daley should be doing 3 to 5 at Joilet.
They'll need a special "investment banker" cell block.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Assassination Thoughts

  • Jared Lee Loughner is not a Muslim or an illegal immigrant. He is a native born American terrorist.
  • He appears to be of the Tim McVeigh (paranoid psychopath) rather than John Hinckley (pathetic loser) breed of American assassin. 
  • The suspicion that he has an older partner suggests Loughner was a part of a conspiracy and the tool of a mastermind. Think WASP suicide bomber.
  • The murder weapon was legally purchased. Arizona has extremely liberal gun laws; it's a state where any loon can buy a gun and enough bullets to commit a massacre. 
  • Congresswoman Giffords was deliberately targeted. 
  • It is yet to be revealed, and may never be publicly revealed, whether the attack was inspired by Sarah Palin or Jesse Kelly targeting (with literal guns) the Congresswoman.
  • If Jesse Kelly, or any Republican, takes her seat in the next election then the gunman has won.
  • If Loughner has any kind of skilled lawyer I expect to see the Glenn Beck Defense used. He will claim diminished capacity due to the effect of talk radio.
  • I doubt Loughner was a Tea Party activist.
  • However, the Tea Party set the stage with their frequent attacks of congressmembers at public events and their practice of bringing guns to their opponent's events. The Tea Party encouraged irrational behavior at Town Hall meetings.
  • This was inevitable. The American body politic has become more and more brutal in recent years; the rhetoric is more and more bloodthirsty. 
  • I include in this a certain blogger (me) who used firing squad rhetoric to denounce investment bankers. That was over the top. While I think a good many of them deserve prison terms for fraud I don't really want them put up against a wall and shot. It's an easy trap to fall into; the imagery is compelling. But, when I fall into rhetorical sanguinary I become part of the problem. I will try to be better.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Gold Fever

At least three state legislatures, Georgia, Utah, and Virginia, have caught gold fever.
Collectively they will be known as the Glenn Beck Profiteering Acts of 2011.
Georgia is considering legislation (the Constitutional Tender Act) would outlaw the Federal Reserve Note and requiring state taxes to be paid only with gold or silver coins. It would require banks to hold accounts denominated in gold or silver coinage. Also, future state payments (salaries, vendors) will be paid exclusively with gold or silver coins.

The Utah Sound Money Act is more voluntary. It would allow Utahans to pay the state in gold or silver and demand any payment from the state be in specie instead of cash.

Both Utah and Georgia plan on using existing US minted gold and silver coins. The United States last minted gold coins in 1933 have values in excess of their face value or worth as specie. The $20 Double Eagle has $1,324 in gold (at current prices) but sell for twice that and more on the open market. Of course, once states start using rare coins as legal tender their prices will rise.

And then there is Virginia which plans to begin minting its own gold and silver coins as a substitute currency to the American dollar. Of the three states, Virginia at least has some experience in minting money.
Who else would put slaves on their bills?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Congressional Kabuki

The Republican health care repeal action is an elaborate shadow puppet performance, complete with loud drums. Not only does it have no chance of passing the Senate (and is therefore a futile gesture) but if repeal did have a chance Republicans would back away from it faster than a scalded puppy.

Too many powerful big money interests (Big Pharma, insurance companies) stand to profit from the bill that passed to allow that to happen. So enjoy the performance of fake outrage. You're allowed to laugh, it is a comedy.
Sound and fury signifying nothing. ~ Shakespeare, MacBeth

What's So Bad About Bankers

I admit it, I don't like investment bankers. Given what they have done to the world's economy I think they should get what they deserve.
What they deserve.
But now that the President has chosen one to be his new chief-of-staff perhaps I should explain myself more fully.

Bankers Are Financial Thugs
Bankers are just like the Crips. They have their hoes (trophy wives), they get chalked up, and they use secret codes (banker jargon) to communicate. They may even have fly tats. Of course, they are heavily into crime like forgery and fraud.

But the principle reason bankers are like street gangsters is that once you join you never leave. Take the case of Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner. In 2008 neither was still working for Goldman Sachs yet when AIG was going bankrupt both worked overtime to craft a scheme to benefit Goldman Sachs at the expense of everybody else. Once you join a big bank you are theirs for life.

Bankers Are the Ultimate Elitists
Bankers may steal from other bankers (there is no honor among thieves) but at least they respect them. That is not the case with the rest of humanity. To bankers there are two kinds of people - other bankers and chattel. To them, we the people are cows to be milked, sheep to be sheared, or pigs to be slaughtered.
Your bankers and you.
Now that a banker is the President's gatekeeper it is highly unlikely that any of us chattel will get through to the Oval Office ever again.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Barak and JP Morgan

President Obama is really making it difficult to continue liking him.

William Daley and JP Morgan Bank are major reasons the economy is in the shithole it is now. Daley was Commerce Secretary during the banking deregulation craze that cratered the economy. JP Morgan, like Goldman Sachs, profited mightily from the economic collapse and turned our suffering into their gain.

This is like hiring a serial arsonist as your new fire chief. Excuse me while I go vomit my breakfast.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Matt Taibbi Is the Last Real Journalist in America

I'm reading Matt's book Griftopia (If you are looking for inspiration to buy rope, light torches, and lynch your local banker you need to read this book.), and realized how different Matt is from every other reporter covering the national beat.

Let's take someone at random, Say Joe Klein at Time. Joe picks a topic for a column based on cocktail party chatter. He'll call up a friend, frequently the one he talked to at that party, and ask him for some quotes. He'll then ask that same guy for some other sources he can "confirm" things with. He will never, ever seek out an independent source. He won't do any independent research beyond reading the New York Times, Washington Post, and his own mag.

The important thing with Joe is to not upset any of his "sources." If they lie to him he'll believe the lie, frequently because he doesn't know enough to recognize a lie. If they tell him to bury something he'll dig a hole so deep it will never be found. Joe's first motive is to keep getting invited to those upscale cocktail parties. His job is not to tell the truth but to stay connected to people with power.

Matt Taibbi is a wonder. He actually read the collected works of Alan Greenspan and Ayn Rand in researching his book and studies the complex mechanics that brought the fall of AIG. He digs up people who know the inside scoop and Matt will actually listen to people who aren't A-list Beltway celebrities. There aren't 20 reporters in Washington who work as hard as Matt. Twenty combined.
Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers. ~ Jimmy Breslin

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Battle of the Barbies

This is just too good to be true. Donald Trump seriously wants to run for president in 2012. Caribou Barbie versus Comb-over Ken.

We all know Sister Sarah, a woman who displayed her diplomatic chops by getting punked by a couple of radio comics. A woman whose knowledge of geography is exceeded only by her knowledge of history.

Who better to take on the national debt than a man who had gone bankrupt three times? This is a man who got rich by borrowing money and then using the court system to avoid paying it back.

It will be a primary campaign for the history books. And Saturday Night Live.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Both Sides of War

I've looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall.
I really don't know life at all.
~ Joni Mitchell
Every war has multiple sides. Not just the opposing forces on the battlefield but each side has its own balance sheet, its own win and lose. Even for the victor the debit is often weighted in the tons of innocent flesh destroyed while the credit is an illusion. Here is how the United States has fared in its conflicts in the last century.
  • Iraq War (both) - A former uncooperative ally (Saddam in the 1980's) has been changed into an uncooperative dependent colony. For that we gave up 4500 dead and over 30,000 maimed, spent $800 billion, and strengthened an enemy (Iran). Iraqis lost a brutal dictator at the cost of over a half million lives (Lancet).
  • Afghan War - Our targets (Taliban and al Qaeda) have successfully moved to safe havens a few hundred miles to the south and the US has gained an expensive and dysfunctional colony. The cost in flesh (about 1500 dead) and cash ($400 billion) is less than in Iraq but both are growing. 
  • Vietnam War - Debit: 58,000 dead, 350,000 wounded, caused the rise of Pol Pot in Cambodia. Credit: delayed Vietnam's independence from colonial rule by two decades.
  • Korean War - Debit: 170,000 US casualties (killed and wounded); South Korea had about 2 million casualties (civilian and military, about 10% of the population). Credit: prevented Korea's "fall to communism" which lead eventually, 35 years later, to South Korea becoming a prosperous democratic country. This, in turn, lead to Samsung televisions and Hyundai cars. We also got a really good TV series (MASH) out of the war. And the war, technically, has never ended.
  • World War II - Debit: total dead, all countries and all reasons, 50 to 70 million; rise of the Soviet Union as a world power; invention of nuclear weapons. Credit: ended a Holocaust of Biblical proportions; removed from Germany, with extreme prejudice, one of the most horrific government ever to rise to power; ended Japanese militarism which had brutalized the countries it had occupied.
  • World War I - Debit: 37 million casualties (military and civilian), the Armenian genocide, the invention of weapons of mass destruction, the communist revolution in Russia, fueled the later rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. Credit: growth of airplane technology (That's it. That's all the good that came out of the first World War.).
Weighing the balance sheets
World War II was worth the horrific cost. Only Koreans can tell us if the Korean War was worth the millions of casualties, although I think we can agree that if North Korea drops atomic bombs on Seoul the war was a wasted effort. As for the other wars, they have been nothing but a useless loss of blood and capital. They have brought nothing but senseless tragedy.

    Sunday, January 02, 2011

    Lindsey Graham and Afghanistan

    I contend that we are the first race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. ~ Cecil Rhodes
    That old poof, Lindsay Graham, thinks that Afghanistan would just be so much better off if we occupy their country for eternity. He foresees turning Afghanistan into another American colony like Iraq. 

    Then, of course, we can begin the colonial occupation of Iran that Graham wants so dearly.

    Saturday, January 01, 2011

    Thoughts on the Passing of Another Year

    What to do, what to do. Look back on the past decade...
    The Horror!
    Look back on the past year...
    The Lost Opportunities
    Or look forward to what the future may bring.
    Just shoot me.
    Maybe I should just give up obsessing about the past and the future. Maybe I should live in the moment, let the parades and bowl games wash over me and...