Wednesday, July 31, 2013

American Police State: Definition Division

One of the defining aspects of any police state is that minor crimes against the state are considered far more hideous than major crimes against citizens. Take for example the acts of George Zimmerman and Bradley Manning.

Zimmerman shot an unarmed teenager on the street and it is considered a minor action not deserving any punishment. Manning revealed information that would have been in the public domain in any functioning democracy. He faces a possible sentence exceeding a century, although that sentence might be reduced by 112 days to compensate him for the torture he received in pretrial confinement.
What Manning Revealed:
Military action that resulted in the deaths of children, journalists, and other non-combatants. Such action being illegal both by UCMJ and international law.
Military operations within foreign borders of nations with which we are not at war. By law and the Constitution such actions require Congressional approval and public debate.
• A variety of inter-embassy gossip that mostly revealed US ambassadors are catty children.

In the eyes of a police state punishing Manning is considered justice. In the eyes of freedom loving individuals (an abhorrent thought to a police state) his actions are the least we would expect of a government employee.

Monday, July 29, 2013

First National Bank Robbers

I've been looking for the proper illustration of those folks at First National Bank of Wellston. You know the guys who broke into someone's home, removed and destroyed all her belongings, and now refuse to repay her for her losses.

Of course, if I had done such a thing I'd be held before the court for home invasion and grand theft. But I do not have the total immunity from criminal charges that bank executives enjoy. Taking someone's home without due process, destroying private property, and doing it with a perverse smile is all in a day's work for the jolly pirates employed at your friendly neighborhood banking institution.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dept. of Homeland Security Headquarters to Be Derelict Mental Hospital

It's just so freaking appropriate it has to be a joke, you'd think the source would be the Onion or Stephen Colbert, but it absolutely true. The DHS is remodeling an insane asylum in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington D. C. to be the place where they discuss terrorist plots, spy on innocent Americans, and act out every paranoid delusion their crazed minds can concoct. (Breast Milk Bomb Scare)
DHS leadership conference
The only question I have is whether, a decade from now, we will still be laughing or will we see St. Elizabeths as a modern Lubyanka.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Doc Holliday Would Feel at Home in Modern America

Now that states like North Carolina are legalizing carrying firearms into bars, it is only a matter of time before the drunken saloon gunfight again becomes a staple of American life. Blood seeping through the floorboards of a bar is such a romantic image in sepia hindsight to Republican lawmakers they neglect to imagine what it will look like in full color photography.

One of the most famous saloon gunfights of the Old West was between Levi Richardson and Frank "Cock-eyed" Loving in Dodge City's Longbranch Saloon on April 5, 1879.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Greatest Heroes of Randian Philosophy

Writer Fred Smith is an faithful acolyte of Ayn Rand. Like many such people, including Rand herself, he doesn't actually produce anything, he lives off the gullibility of others. All he has ever done is write and talk. He preaches that greed is godly, generosity a venal sin, and heartlessness is the ultimate achievement of mankind. Yet he would starve if it weren't for the heartfelt generosity of people who donate to the Competitive Enterprise Institute because they share its philosophy of heartless greed.

In all of literature their greatest hero Ebenezer Scrooge. Rather than being vilified, Smith believes Scrooge should be celebrated. He contends that Scrooge displays the ultimate is wealth generation and betrays society when he abandons his greed to help the crippled Tiny Tim.

What surprises me is that Randians never refer to the most unrepentant Scrooge in American history, Hetty Green. Green inherited a small fortune ($7 million) and turned it into a large fortune (over $100 million) through shrewd investment and miserly conduct. She tried by forgery to steal her aunt's money when she found out her aunt had willed it to charity. When her son broke his leg she tried to have him treated at a free clinic and, when she was recognized, treated his leg at home. Her son eventually lost the leg. She should be a hero of the Ayn Rand movement and I don't understand why they shun her.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman Verdict Fruit

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
~ Lyrics, Strange Fruit
Lyrics | Billie Holiday lyrics - Strange Fruit lyrics

Try as we might, some things never change.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Musing on the Zimmerman Trial

I don't have any delusions that Trayvon Martin's killer will be found guilty of anything. In the Deep South, for a long time, killing a young black male has not been considered a particularly serious crime. It really hasn't been a crime since the days that killing a black man was also destruction of private property. Randomly killing black men in the dead of night has long been considered a crime prevention technique.
Zimmerman will walk, it's tradition. He's already been declared a national hero for the act of killing an unarmed teenager for the crime of being a Negro in public.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Saga of Lili Marlene

I've been Donnie Downer recently because of the news so now for something lighter.
Lili Marlene was one of the most memorable songs from World War II. It started as a poem written by a German soldier during World War I. The poem tells the story of a sentry on watch remember the beautiful prostitute he would meet under the street lamp outside the barracks. This soldier remembers his love for this girl, how he would rather have gone off with her than gone to war. He thinks painfully of who will be meeting her under the lamplight while he is gone and he longs for the time he can leave the battlefield behind and return to his lady of the lamppost.

Lale Andersen
The poem was put to music in 1938 and became wildly popular when performed by a 34 year-old Berlin cabaret singer named Lale Andersen and even more popular when she recorded it in 1939. The song was not at all popular with Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. He believed the song undermined the soldiers at the front with its longing for love and peace. Goebbels banned the song and forbade Andersen to perform anywhere. However, Andersen was too popular, he allowed Andersen to return to the stage but ordered her to not perform Lili Marlene. That didn't stop Andersen's adoring public from begging her for the song and when she refused the audiences would sing the song to her. In 1942, Goebbels ordered Andersen to record a martial version of the song.

The Allies had their own songstresses. Marlene Dietrich had been a Hollywood star since 1930 but by 1937 she was no longer the "German Garbo" and her films generally failed. Nazis tried to lure her back promising she would be the biggest film star in the Third Reich. Dietrich responded by immediately applying for US citizenship. After the war started Dietrich recorded both an English and a German version of the song. Her German version was the original song made famous by Lale Andersen and was broadcast frequently by the Allies to German troops in Europe and North Africa. Dietrich's English version was very different and more closely resembled Goebbels' pro-war lyrics.
When we are marching in the mud and cold
And when my pack seems more than I can hold
My love for you renews my might
I'm warm again, my pack is light
It's you, Lili Marlene
It's you, Lili Marlene
~ Marlene Dietrich's English language lyrics
England's songbird Vera Lynn recorded an English version that, while not a direct translation, was more in the spirit of the original poem. French singer Edith Piaf performed it too.

The song is haunting especially in German and you don't need to understand the language to feel the song. There are at least two statues in Germany dedicated to Lili Marene. There is one on the island of Langeoog where Lale Andersen lived and this one in the town of Munster.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Silliness, the Competition

What is sillier than making an imaginary gun a school expulsion offense? How about making a federal case out of it?
What's next, a federal law regarding imaginary suicide?
I guess we can describe it as an imaginary Second Amendment defense. Children play around with imaginary everything all the time. Only adults are immature enough to take it seriously. When will some Republican declare that a child sleeping with an antique stuffed animal is statutory rape?
Poor Teddy faces 10 years in prison and having to register as a sex offender.

Sister Sarah Is On the Grift Again

You know when Sarah Palin needs a new fur coat, designer handbag, or new tanning bed because she starts hinting at running for some office somewhere. A couple years ago Sister Sarah suggested she just might run for President, she raised almost $5 million for her SarahPAC and donated less than $300,000 to candidate campaigns, she spent nearly as much money just on travel expenses. 

This year is not an election year so donations from suckers marks loyal supporters are down substantially. Sister Sarah has to gin up the gifts she gets if she is to continue living the lifestyle to which she has become accustom. Hinting at running for office is a great scam. That doesn't mean Sarah won't actually run for Senate. While hinting is a great scam, holding a seat in the US Senate would be a goldmine for a thief as skilled as Sarah Palin. It's just that running for office might seem too much like work for Sister Sarah.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

FBI Nominee Pours on the Bullshit

James Comey, President Obama's choice to head the FBI, has several difficult problems facing him during his Senate confirmation hearing.

His paper trail showed him approving torture while working for the Bush Administration. Yet, times have changed and he has to sound at least tacitly disapproving of torturing prisoners. Comey settled on the odd philosophical construct that waterboarding was awful and illegal but still lawful and necessary. There is little that someone with so flexible a mind can't wrap his brain around.

Comey believes that force feeding prisoners holding hunger strikes to protest inhuman conditions is the humane thing to do. He believes that people would accept domestic spying and the secret FISA court if only people were familiar with it; that people opposing it are simply showing their ignorance; and, of course, people cannot be allowed to know about domestic spying and the secret FISA court because of national security. He wonders whatever happened to the concept of "ignorance is bliss."

Obama has supported Comey for a Supreme Court slot as well as the FBI post. This is a surprise given that Comey is a rightwing Republican who share nothing with either the President nor anyone else in the White House. Comey also has a very weak resume. This all begs the question, what kind of blackmail information is Comey using to pressure President Obama to appoint him to high office?

Sunday, July 07, 2013

American Police State: 3rd Amendment Division

One of the things that outraged our Founding Fathers was when the British used armed force to take over somebody's home and station their forces there. It was so egregious an act that when it came time to write a Constitution they included a clause, the Third Amendment, specifically outlawing such actions by the new United States.
Fast forward to 2013 and in these new United States the Third Amendment has taken its place along side the Fourth (unreasonable searches), Fifth (due process), Sixth (speedy trial, per-trial confinement often lasts years),  Eighth (cruel and unusual punishment), Fifteenth (voting rights), and Twenty-Fourth (requires payment of taxes or fees to vote) Amendments in the trash heap of history.

In Nevada, police wanted to quarter officers in the home of Anthony Mitchell to keep watch on his neighbor. Mitchell refused. Police forces then invaded Mitchell's home, attacked and arrested him, and took possession of his home for their own uses. And abuses as the police ate the Mitchell's food and left a mess behind when the concluded their occupation. The consensus opinion is the Nevada will claim that armed police forces do not qualify as "soldiers" and that in denying police demand to surrender their home to police was an act of obstruction justifying both the warrentless arrest and physical punishment.

What about the criminal the Nevada police wanted to keep an eye one? He wasn't a terrorist, murderer, or Mafia don, he was suspected (suspected only) of domestic abuse. Apparently, the only people arrested in this affair were the innocent homeowners. 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Postal Spy Network

Let's make a couple of simple points first, the price of postage could be halved if the NSA didn't insist on logging all the data of every piece of mail sent. Postal delivery would be faster too.

This isn't the first time the US government has intruded on the privacy of the mail. During World War II, mail sent home by soldiers was opened and read by censors to insure no secret war plans were revealed. The big difference is it wasn't done in secret, everybody knew the government was censoring the mail. Every single piece of mail was clearly stamped to show a censor had handled it before it was delivered.

The current NSA postal spying is part of their effort to build comprehensive dossiers on every American in the event they might, one day for some reason, want to arrest someone.  And the NSA does this in secret because they last thing they want is for the American people to know how much of their lives are being recorded by the government with the intent of using it against them at some point.
Technology allows for so much more in depth spying on citizens. In the old days, for example, the East German Stasi had to keep millions of reel to reel audio tapes of every citizen's phone call that had to be listened to by secret police officers.  Today, the data can be kept digitally and monitored by complex algorithms looking for patterns. Computers can choose who to target for intimidation with minimal human involvement.

Its a brave, new world we live in and one that Erich Honecker could only dream of.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Snowden Terror

The Snowden Terror© keeps getting more and more bizarre.

Today the plane carrying the President of Bolivia was forced to land because of the rumor (false) that Edward Snowden was on the plane. Four European countries refused passage for the presidential plane, a violation of basic diplomacy. The Bolivian plane was apparently searched by Austrians, another egregious violation of diplomatic protocol. Imagine Russian authorities demanding the right to search Air Force One.

The implied, if not outright, threat was that military forces would shoot down the presidential plane. Perhaps not strangely, this is exactly what the CIA is alleged to have done in murdering the President of Ecuador a quarter century ago.

The Snowden Terror is revealing a shocking level of American thuggery. Whole nations are cowering in abject horror over what the Americans might do because of this single young man.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

What Does the NSA Have on Them?

From such beginnings of governments, what could be expected, but a continual system of war and extortion? ~ Thomas Paine
Witnessing Vladamir Putin folding like a cheap tent gives some hint at the kind of pressure the NSA-led US government is putting on anyone who might provide asylum to Edward Snowden.

I assume President Obama has not threatened nuclear war if Russia provides sanctuary to Snowden (I can't think of a lesser threat that would scare him). So that means the NSA must have some pretty powerful info stored in their databases to cower Putin so thoroughly.

In Ecuador it is commonly accepted as true that the US assassinated a beloved former President of their country thirty years ago. If that knowledge was insufficient to scare off current President Rafael Correa, then what threats did Vice-President Biden convey to President Correa that terrifies him so.

The Washington Post of Woodward and Bernstein Watergate fame, the same paper that, with the New York Times, published the Pentagon Papers, has betrayed their heritage by editorializing that government secrets are sacred and that leaks are horrible. The NSA must have some very juicy secrets about the Post publishers.

Diplomatic channels must sound a lot like a back alley in South Chicago during the 1920's. The threats, veiled and otherwise, a going hot and heavy. And make no mistake, the NSA is running this show, not President Obama. Obama is as much a victim here as everyone else.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Austin and Egypt

Two very different societies, two very similar situations.
Texas rally against the Governor's anti-democracy actions.

In both, religious radicals have gained control of the government. In both the people are aggrieved by a government intent on imposing its own, particular brand of religious orthodoxy upon the people. Their governments, conversely, see the people as bothersome obstructions to enforcing religious order.

In Egypt, the government tried and failed to use police intimidation to quell the people. In Austin, Governor Perry is planning on using a massive display of armed police power to prevent the people from having access to the legislative gallery.

I have high hopes for the people of Egypt than the people of Austin.