Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Will This Be the Day Remembered for the Death of the Bill of Rights?

Only two Senators in the USA were absent for this important vote: Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich. They are in Fairbanks for a military deployment ceremony.

The Udall Amendment to the defense authorization act was defeated 37 to 61.

Sen. McCain's words are chilling:
An individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat.  We need to take every stop necessary to prevent that from happening, that’s for the safety and security of the men and women who are out there risking their lives ... in our armed services.
 Nobody can imagine how such a policy that goes beyond the judicial process might play out in the hands of a Rick Perry or a Rick Santorum.  Any American citizen who is deemed in some unspecified way to "pose a threat to the security of the USA" will now be available for indefinite detention without charge.  Period.

Obama has promised to veto this bill, but like a few others, I smell a really stinky comporomise in the works.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Julian Assange's Acceptance Speech for the Australian Pulitzer - The Walkley Prize

More on the Walkley Prize here.

Democratic Party Places Effective Anti-Romney Ads

Usibelli Coal Operating Without Valid Permit at Proposed Wishbone Hill Coal Mine

Wishbone Hill, Northwest of Palmer, Alaska
 [Note - I serve as the Secretary of the Board of Friends of Mat-Su.  I've known this action was in the works for two weeks, as our board voted to support the findings of Trustees of Alaska, regarding what appears to be this seriously flagrant lapse of legality by Usabelli]

Citizen’s Letter Demands DNR Halt Usibelli’s Illegal Activities

Palmer, AK -- Local citizens fighting the controversial Wishbone Hill coal project have sent a letter to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources alleging that Usibelli Coal Company has been operating illegally and without a valid permit and should be ordered to halt project development.

Located less than five miles from thousands of Palmer and Wasilla homes, the proposed Wishbone Hill project was initially permitted in 1991, but state records clearly show that the permits expired on September 4, 1996 due to the prior permit holder’s failure to begin operations within the time frame required under Alaska law.   The citizen’s letter contends that Usibelli’s current operations at Wishbone Hill are illegal, occurring over 15 years after the permits expired.

“The entire point of the law requiring mining to start within a reasonable time frame after their permits are approved is to avoid this exact situation – a company trying to start mining decades later, with outdated permits that fail to protect local communities and property owners,” said Jeremiah Millen, Executive Director of Friends of Mat Su.

 “Usibelli Coal Company has tried to bill themselves as a good neighbor to Mat-Su residents, but the record clearly shows otherwise,” said Alice Ciostek, local resident and member of Friends of Mat-Su.   “Continued unpermitted and illegal operations at the Wishbone Hill mine site will destroy property values and impact communities across the Mat-Su.  When you consider how quickly outrage from local residents is growing, it’s no wonder they are trying to rush their project along.”

"Usibelli failed to take the steps necessary to maintain its DNR permit. This, combined with the company's failure to obtain an air quality permit from DEC, and its long record of environmental and worker safety violations, makes me wonder what kind of a neighbor UCM would really be," said Judy Donegan, a Castle Mountain Coalition supporter and resident who lives near the proposed mine.

This letter followed a controversial public hearing on Usibelli Coal Company's mining permit renewal, attended by more than 300 local citizens, the majority of whom oppose the project.
DNR is required by regulation to respond to the citizen’s letter within 10 to 15 days.


The Alaska Surface Coal Mining Control and Reclamation Act (“ASCMCRA”) and DNR’s implementing regulations govern coal mining activities in the State. A central requirement of the law is that an operator cannot undertake surface coal mining activities without a permit from DNR; this requirement is intended to protect the public from the harmful impacts of unregulated coal mining. Permits are issued by DNR for a term of five years, and the permitee must begin coal mining within three years of receiving the permit, or within a specified time if an extension is requested and granted. Failure to begin operations within that time results in the termination of the permit. Once a permit terminates, an operator must obtain a new permit before it can undertake any coal mining activities at the site under ASCMCRA. 

For more information, visit: www.matvalley.orghttp://matvalley.org/

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Montserrat Figueras Passes

Catalan Soprano and instrumentalist, Montserrat Figueras, passed away on Wednesday, at her home in Bellaterra, Spain.  She was 69.

Not well-known outside of Early Music (music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and early Baroque) circles, she was revered and influential within that wonderful mix of musicians, historians and dedicated lovers of bringing musical ghosts from the past to vibrant life in the present.

Her career spanned more than 40 years.  Most of her efforts were as collaborator and partner with her husband (since 1968), Jordi Savall, one of Early Music's most important figures.  In this century, Figueras, Savall and their two children, Arianna and Ferran, often played together, both in Savall's well-know ensemble, Hespèrion XXI, and in other groups.

Since my close friend, the late James Acord, made me aware of Savall's and Figueras' work, their approach to historically informed performance has had a profound influence on how I understand music of those times.

I often use this excerpt from Claudio Monteverdi's L'Orfeo to open up my lecture on the origins of opera in my Music Appreciation class.  Figueras is Eurydice, and Savall is the conductor:

The following excerpt from a program Savall presented, based on music and other art from the Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade (1209–1229).  In it, Monserrat Figueras plays zither and sings.  Savall plays a predecessor of the viola de gamba.  Her singing is hauntingly beautiful, reminding me of New Yorker music critic Alex Ross' description:  "her smoky, penetrating, flatly expressive voice falls somewhere between grand opera and rural folk singing, and combines the best aspects of both."

Indeed, she seems to evoke both Maria Callas and Joan Baez:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Obama's Dead End Game: The Good, the Bizarre and the Ugly - AF-PAK Sitrep

It is becoming increasingly clear that the AF-PAK war will end in yet another grand strategic defeat for the United States.  

To date, President Obama, has been able to distract attention from this issue, but given the stakes in 2012, that dodge is unlikely to last. Get ready for an ugly debate over “who lost the Afghan War.”

To those readers who disagree with my opening line, I urge you to study Anthony Cordersman’s most recent situation report on the AF-PAK War, THE AFGHANISTAN- PAKISTAN WAR AT THE END OF 2011: Strategic Failure? Talk Without Hope? Tactical Success? Spend Not Build (And Then Stop Spending)?  

It was issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on November 15.  Reading the report is heavy slogging but I urge readers to download and examine it — at the very least, take a few minutes  to read the executive summary.

Now compare Cordesman’s systematic, detailed, and workmanlike analysis to the bizarre obscurantism peddled one week later, on 22 November, co-authored by Michael O’Hanlon (Brookings Institution) and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (American Enterprise Institute) in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, entitled Defining Victory in Afghanistan.

O’Hanlon and Wolfowitz posit the bizarre thesis that the admittedly less than successful outcome against the FARC guerrillas in Columbia is a favorable model for justifying continuing business as usual in Afghanistan. Viewed through the refractions of their Columbian lens, O’Hanlon and Wolfowitz conclude, “Our current exit strategy of reducing American troops to 68,000 by the end of next summer and transferring full security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014 is working. In a war where the U.S. has demonstrated remarkable strategic patience, we need to stay patient and resolute.”
Are O’Hanlon and Wolfowitz living on the same planet as Cordesman or do they live in some kind of parallel universe?

I submit it is latter. Here’s why -

Einstein showed how reasoning by analogy can be a very creative way of thinking, but it is also very dangerous, because bad analogies, if not rigorously tested against reality, can capture the imagination and cause one to see what one wants to see.  This problem has been particularly evident in the case of understanding the highly evolved complex tribal cultures of Afghanistan, as Jonathan Steele shows in his just released book, Ghosts of Afghanistan: The Haunted Battleground (Counterpoint, Berkeley, October 2011).  Steele explains how one of the enduring features of America’s 30 year adventure in Afghanistan is a policy-making decision cycle, [ i.e., what military reformers refer to as the collective Observation - Orientation - Decision Action (OODA) Loop], grounded in an outlook [i.e., Orientation] that is shaped by false assumptions and mythical beliefs.  The distorted Orientation causes decision makers and policy wonks to filter information in a way that causes them see what they want to see.  

When this happens, as I explained here, decisions and actions become progressively disconnected from reality and decision-makers become overloaded by confusion and disorder — a process we in the Pentagon used to call incestuous amplification.

The only innoculation against incestuous amplification is to destroy the “model” shaping the orientation with a blunt dose of cold reality, like the Cordesman Report — yet as O’Hanlon and Wolfowitz have so convincingly demonstrated, the minds of some people are beyond saving.  A problem, of course, is that more people will read silly fantasies peddled in the Wall Street Journal than heavy tomes produced by serious analysts.

Cordesman’s report is also important for another reason.  Notwithstanding the last ditch fantasies of O’Hanlon and Wolfowitz, an atmosphere of gloom is descending on Versailles, and the inevitable hunt for scapegoats to blame for the looming failure is in the offing.  While Cordesman is unlikely to be a part of any finger pointing game, analyses like his (and others like Steele’s) will add fuel to the fire heating up the emerging political debate over “who lost Iraq and AFPAK?”  We can expect that debate to go from the bizarre (like the O’Hanlon/Wolfowitz thesis) to the really ugly, given the unscrupulous know-nothing scorched-earth atmosphere currently so much in evidence in our contemporary politics.

Polls suggest withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan are more in tune with the majority wishes of the American public, which after ten years of costly futile war is understandably tired and is turning inward because of economic troubles at home. Yet polls also suggest the military is now the most “respected” institution of government–far more so than it was in the early 1970s; this is true despite (1) the fact that DoD is now the only federal agency that cannot pass at least part of the annual audit required explicitly by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 and implicitly by the Constitution and (2) that after ten years, its wars are sputtering aimlessly into an morass.

On the other hand, the military — really the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex or MICC — is also far more politicized and influential in domestic politics than it was in the 1970s; its PR machine, abetted by ubiquitous advertisements by defense contractors in the printed and electronic media, is also far more sophisticated today than it was 40 years ago, and militarism has insinuated itself far more deeply into our popular culture. Indeed, as I have written elsewhere, Eisenhower’s nightmare is upon us.

To wit: the recent debate over deficit reduction effectively took serious reductions in defense spending off the table.  In fact, even though the Super Committee on deficit reduction just collapsed as many predicted it would, Pentagon officials have refused to even make contingency plans to cope with defense cutbacks caused by a sequester, and have decided instead to push back on Congress, in effect passing the pain onto social programs and Social Security and Medicare.  Evidence is mounting that defense spending and “no tax increases” are now eclipsing Social Security and Medicare as third rails in American politics.

My adice, dear reader, is to get ready for another Vietnam-like “stab in the back” argument like that of the late 1970s when the generals blamed their strategic/grand-strategic defeat in Vietnam on politicians at home.  That drumbeat in the 1970s, abetted by phony claims that budget cuts after Vietnam created a “hollow military,” when in fact the hollowness was a self-inflicted wound, together with fantastical promises that new technologies would revolutionize the nature of war, plus the spreading of contracts to more and more congressional districts, fueled a political atmosphere that unleashed the huge and wasteful spending spree of the 1980s.

This time, a re-run of the stab-in-the-back argument is also likely to be abetted by an unstated racist undertone of being ‘stabbed by a black socialist president,’ (a totally phony charge) fueled discretely behind the scenes by the MICC.  This kind of inuendo will very likely to gain traction, particularly among the Limbaugh/Beck crowd on the hard right, but more generally among angry blue collar white men who have seen their standard of living stagnate or decline and their social status diminish.

Obama and the Democrats will be targeted for the bulk of blame, although in the case of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama certainly bears a major part of the responsibility for Afghanistan, given his reckless decision to escalate the ground and air war in 2009.  But the problems cited in Cordesman’s report did not build up in just three years, and its information helps us understand why blaming Obama and Democrats for ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’ is a phony charge — there is plenty of blame to go around.  Nevertheless, it is a almost certain this charge will be a campaign plank of the Republicans in 2012.

Combine the likely intensification of the MICC’s ‘stab-in-the-back politics with the growing popular rage against austerity economics in the US and Europe, the increasing prospect of a double dip global recession or even a debt-driven deflation, and 2012 is shaping up to be a very dangerous year for the United States — particularly if Israel tries to take advantage of this mess by attacking Iran in the middle of an election year.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He be reached atchuck_spinney@mac.com

reprinted with permission of the author

Ice Pictures

Right now it is 3 below zero F at our place.  I spent a lot of today outside (it was slightly warmer - plus 4), moving snow from our long driveway and parking lots.  The winds last week had created a lot of drift snow, which is really hard to move.  The space between the snow molecules gets ground down in drift snow, so the snow blower gets choked up or just plain stuck.  Anyway, my dog, snow shovel, snow blower and I had a lot of quality time together today in the northern sunshine.

Above is a birch tree, its ice crystals gleaming in the sunshine.  This morning, before attacking the snow, I worked on a piece of music for a capella chorus, depicting a Paper birch, like this one, on the Autumn equinox.

Below, are two views looking out the windows in my dormant greenhouse.

Let Them In! - The Freedom to Participate in Power

---  by Ralph Nader

From New York City to Oakland, and several cities in between, the police, on orders from city officials, have smashed the Occupy encampments and evicted the protestors from public parks and spaces. More politicians from Congress to the state and local level want the Occupy people OUT!

Well, why don’t they start letting them into the places where decisions are being made against their legitimate interests? Let them IN to:

Having jobs and affordable housing;

Their legislatures without having to pay to play;

The courts when they are wrongfully injured or have other grievances without being blocked by corporatist dogmas and judges;

Access to civil lawyers pro bono when they are in dire need, as suggested by Cincinnati attorney Paul Tobias;

The dispensing and regulatory agencies with their petitions (without having to face grinding delays and costs);

Universal health care so they can escape the present avariciousness called “pay or die”;

Fair contracts, from student loans to mortgages, without fine print and gouging fees and robo-signing type shenanigans that trap them into contract peonage (see FairContracts.org)

Fair and clean elections with voluntary public financing and easier ballot access for third party candidates to give voters more choice beyond the two party dictatorship;

The media to express themselves on television, radio and in newspapers, so dominated by the plutocratic values of corporatism;

Public places to petition and circulate their materials in these large malls that are taxpayer subsidized but considered off limits because they are corporate owned;

The political process, with other citizens, with full rights to challenge in courts and by referenda the politicians and their corporate paymasters who unconstitutionally and illegally plunge our country into wars, invasions and occupations abroad;

A clean environment where they can breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat safe food by enforcing the existing laws with adequate budgets;

The facilities to band together as workers, consumers and taxpayers that exist for commercial companies and their investors;

There would be no need for encampments or street demonstrations if people were allowed IN to these arenas of power, communications and good livelihoods. You don’t see corporate executives and managers protesting in the streets. Because they are already IN!

It has been said repeatedly that the Occupy Wall Street movement has no specific agenda. Look at their signs and banners. It is obvious; they want IN. They no longer want to be excluded, disrespected, unemployed, defrauded, impoverished, betrayed and in big and small ways OUT.

They want justice, opportunity and, as the ancient Roman lawyer Marcus Cicero advocated for, the freedom to participate in power.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!

Wesley Clark 2007 Speech Expands on the Theme of My Previous Post - Obama Continuing and Expanding Illegal Wars

On this 2007 speech (back when W was President), Glenn Greenwald notes:
The current turmoil in the Middle East is driven largely by popular revolts, not by neocon shenanigans. Still, in the aftermath of military-caused regime change in Iraq and Libya (the latter leading to this and this), with concerted regime change efforts now underway aimed at Syria and Iran, with active and escalating proxy fighting in Somalia, with a modest military deployment to South Sudan, and the active use of drones in six — count ‘em: six — different Muslim countries, it is worth asking whether the neocon dream as laid out by Clark is dead or is being actively pursued and fulfilled, albeit with means more subtle and multilateral than full-on military invasions (it’s worth remembering that neocons specialized in dressing up their wars in humanitarian packaging: Saddam’s rape rooms! Gassed his own people!). As Jonathan Schwarz (or, as he would be called by establishment newspapers: “a person familiar with Jon Schwarz’s thinking on the subject who asked not to be identified”) put it about the supposedly contentious national security factions:
As far as I can tell, there’s barely any difference in goals within the foreign policy establishment. They just disagree on the best methods to achieve the goals. My guess is that everyone agrees we have to continue defending the mideast from outside interference (I love that Hillary line), and the [Democrats] just think that best path is four overt wars and three covert actions, while the neocons want to jump straight to seven wars.
The difference between seven and four overt wars isn’t non-existent or unimportant, of course, but it’s a question of means. The neocon end as Clark reported them — regime change in those seven countries — seems as vibrant as ever. It’s just striking to listen to Clark describe those 7 countries in which the neocons plotted to have regime change back in 2001, and then compare that to what the U.S. Government did and continues to do since then with regard to those precise countries.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thoughts on Obama as "Our Commander-in-Chief"

I.  Last week a commenter to one of my posts at Progressive Alaska critical of the President wrote:
Heads up, Phil, the more you attack and demean our Commander in Chief, the more you reveal your own deep dissatisfaction with your own life, your own self and most likely your own upbringing.
 My November 22nd post had implored the president to condemn police violence against Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, as he has against police violence in other countries, over the course of 2011's growing crescendo of civil disobedience against entrenched power.

It wasn't the first time I had seen a civilian describing this president as "our commander-in-chief."  But it was the first time here.  Back during the Bush era one would see his supporters at blogs and comment sections to news articles referring to W in the same way.  But these comments elevating Obama to this somewhat dangerously mythic status seem to be a new development.

The term "commander in chief" is addressed specifically in the U.S. Constitution.  Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1 states, in part:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States
When I served in the U.S. Army, the President was my Commander-in-Chief, outranking all the Army's generals.  The minute I got my Honorable Discharge, he was no longer my "Commander-in-Chief,"  nor has any subsequent President had that role in my life, or in that of any other civilian.

That is the way our system has worked since the Constitution was ratified on September 13th, 1788.  Even during the depths of our Civil War, between the battles of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, the President was only the commander of the military forces and their direct auxiliaries.

The current enabling legislation for fighting war is the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (AUMF), from October 16th of that year.  Given that, with factual information taken into account, the Iraq War is an illegal war of aggression, and that the information given to Congress that was used to enact the AUMF was intentionally falsified, the expansion of war powers given to the military's Commander-in-Chief is as questionable as the reasons for the war.

II.  The AUMF has been used as a guise to do many illegal acts, but to see supporters of Obama now morph the total war forever culture that has emanated from this horror into "Obama is our commander-in-chief" is disturbing.

People pushing Obama as some sort of  military and anti-terror savant often claim that he is pulling us out of Iraq.  They are wrong.  Obama seriously fought to abrogate the force withdrawal agreement negotiated between the USA and Iraq before he became President.  We're getting kicked out, in spite of Obama's efforts to keep us there until .... ?

People pushing Obama as some sort of military genius are having a hard time convincing rational people that there is any good news in Afghanistan.  But Obama did manage to negotiate lengthening our prolongation there of the longest war in US history, even as there are no signs of either something we might declare as victory, or respite for the Afghans themselves.

People pushing Obama or the USA as having been the vital part in the Libyan civil war's ongoing narrative, or having been a positive force in the Arab Spring need to do more research.  We didn't do much to slow the Tunisian revolt, but we moved several times to save the Egyptian status quo and quash aspirations for freedom.

The killing of Osama bin Laden shut a big door for a lot of people.  I never wrote about it here because whatever importance the man once had in the scheme of what this conflict has become had been seriously overshadowed by the insane stupidity of our reaction to whatever it is that he did to us from the late 90s through his late 2001 disappearance.

The drone wars, which Obama has frighteningly expanded, probably make far more enemies than were there before our poorly aimed strikes occurred.  Sure enough, down the road, some kid whose sister, mom and three brothers were blown to smithereens a few weeks ago, is going to seek revenge in 2017 or so, prompting calls for more of our freedoms to be taken from us by whichever Republicrat pol occupies the White House then as "our commander-in-chief."

III.  How much "our commander-in-chief" is his own master when it comes to war powers, policy and scope of actions in those realms is certainly open to dispute.  The meme of emperors, kings, dictators and chief executives being trapped in the labyrinth of policies that come with the job, or they are somehow unable to change, is thousands of years old.

But American history has examples of Presidents who avoided wars, found their ways quickly out of them, or sought to end all wars, or at least devastating ones.

Eisenhower quickly ended the Korean War.

Wilson sought to create a climate of cooperation after World War I, only to be defeated by Congress.

John F. Kennedy was working toward a strikingly thorough disarmament regime when he was killed.

Obama is expanding drone wars and fighting hard (unsuccessfully) to keep cluster bomb munition use from becoming war crimes,

People who claim Obama inherited the biggest fuckup in US history are rght.

People who claim that this justifies his wars on civil liberties, whistleblowers, scientists, soldiers exposing war crimes, the environment, and unions are deceiving themselves.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Letter to Alaska Rep. Carl Gatto - Rename the Turkey "Winged Marmot"

November 24, 2011

Dear Rep. Gatto

Happy Thanksgiving!

A matter of grave concern has been brought to the American people by that tirelessly vigilant, level-headed Patriot, Pamela Geller. As you have been shown to recognize, we are truly fortunate to have such a clear view of the imminent threats posed to Americans as those taken up by Geller. Her views have been adopted here in the USA, and abroad.

Last legislative session, you had her testify on behalf of your House Bill 88, designed to stop the insidiously well-hidden move afoot here in the Mat-Su Valley to adopt Sharia Law as the basis of our legal codes.  With so many less important issues like domestic violence, Alaska jobs, declining educational standards crowding your extremely vital bill out of the limelight it deserved, it hasn't yet passed.

When do you plan on finishing up that bill in the 2012 legislative session?  We need it soon!  I think there's a vacant building in Palmer and are several in Wasilla that could easily be converted into mosques overnight.

This week, Ms. Geller brought my attention to something that might even have a more profound effect on my daily life in Wasilla than Sharia Law. But in concentrating on only one aspect of the real problem here, she may have missed a far more important issue. First, here’s what Ms. Geller observed:
Across this great country, on Thanksgiving tables nationwide, infidel Americans are unwittingly going to be serving halal turkeys to their families this Thursday. Turkeys that are halal certified -- who wants that, especially on a day on which we are giving thanks to G-d for our freedom? I wouldn't knowingly buy a halal turkey -- would you? Halal turkey, slaughtered according to the rules of Islamic law, is just the opposite of what Thanksgiving represents: freedom and inclusiveness, neither of which are allowed for under that same Islamic law.

The same Islamic law that mandates that animals be cruelly slaughtered according to halal requirements also teaches hatred of and warfare against unbelievers, the oppression of women, the extinguishing of free speech, and much more that is inimical to our freedom. Don't support it on this celebration of freedom. Join our Facebook group, 'Boycott Butterball'.

Don't buy a Butterball turkey for Thanksgiving.
You can read the rest of Ms. Geller’s powerful essay here.  Ms. Geller has also formed a Don't Buy Butterball Turkeys facebook group.  I do hope you link to it in your next "Coffee With Carl" newsletter.

But I am afraid even the brilliant Pamela Geller sometimes misses important issues, as she concentrates so courageously on one aspect of such an overwhelming problem. She entirely refuses to address the issue of the name of the bird itself: Turkey.


How can we as Americans who support Israel in our every breath, motion, thought and action, stand idly by and refuse to consider renaming this bird while the country Turkey refuses to stand by Israel on every issue?

There are many alternative names you might consider. In honor of Sen. Linda Menard’s  hallmark legislation from the 2009 session, you might consider the new name “Winged Marmot”

Other suggestions already put forward by Patriotic Americans have been "Freedom Fowl" and 'Pilgrim Pullet."

In Turkey they don’t even call turkeys “turkey.”


Phil Munger

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Obama Needs To Reach Out or LEAD! - on Police Violence Against OWS Protests Before Somebody Gets Killed

Obama on Bahrain, Libya, Yemeni and Egyptian protests last winter:
 "I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence against peaceful protesters in those countries, and wherever else it may occur." [emphasis added]
That would include Oakland, where a two-tour Iraqi War veteran was almost killed by pigs that would make a Bahreini cop proud; in Seattle, where a pregnant woman, pepper-sprayed, reportedly miscarried her fetus;  in NYC, where a group of women were pepper-sprayed for, uh, nothing;  and - most recently - at UC Davis, where law-abiding students were pepper-sprayed in such an egregious way, it has become one of the most important icons of ongoing US protests against the bloodsucking policies of the 1% and their enablers.

Obama had his chance to defuse the growing police violence against lawful citizens today in New Hampshire, at a high school appearance.  Though he showed more class then Michelle Bachman, when he was Mic-Checked by a bunch of people who probably voted for him three years ago, he failed to address their genuine concerns:

That is a powerful video. One of the interesting aspects of the crowd reaction happens at 24.5 seconds, when several audience members turn their heads toward the right of the screen simultaneously. Though the camera very soon backs up to a panorama pan, it appears that the later collective reaction to drown out the Occupy New Hampshire stalwarts who confronted the President were probably orchestrated by Obama staff or 2012 campaign people at the scene.

Flash back to the day before the Kent State massacre, May 3, 1970:

During a press conference at the Kent firehouse, an emotional Governor Rhodes pounded on the desk and called the student protesters un-American, referring to them as revolutionaries set on destroying higher education in Ohio. "We've seen here at the city of Kent especially, probably the most vicious form of campus oriented violence yet perpetrated by dissident groups. They make definite plans of burning, destroying, and throwing rocks at police, and at the National Guard and the Highway Patrol. This is when we're going to use every part of the law enforcement agency of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. 

We are going to eradicate the problem. We're not going to treat the symptoms. And these people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize the community. They're worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes," Rhodes said. "They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. 

Now I want to say this. They are not going to take over [the] campus. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America."  Rhodes can be heard in the recording of his speech yelling and pounding his fists on the desk.

This is a huge country mile from Obama's improvised response, for sure.  And although one right-wing pundit or AM radio blabber after another has been this incendiary about what OWS, student protests and other civil disobedience actions around our country mean, no Democrats or administration officials have dissed what is happening to a noticeable degree.

President Nixon could have made a simple statement on May 3rd, to defuse the situation in Ohio.  Or he could have called Gov. Rhodes and chewed him a new asshole.  He did not.  

On May 4th, the students were murdered.

Later he felt guilty enough to meet protesters in Washington DC in the middle of the night, an event that needed both Hunter Thompson and Norman Mailer to have been there as chroniclers.  

Alas, we're stuck with recently released White House tapes and Wally Hickel's May 6th letter (pdf), which led to Nixon's May 9th visit to 1970's OWS.

Watching what is happening this week in Cairo, Syria and in the West Bank, where other law-abiding protesters are being hit by the same metal, gas and spray used by our cops, and where a helluva a lot of innocents are getting killed and a helluva a lot more are being maimed or dragged off to torture chambers our money helped build, I have to pray that no one will get killed here.  

I am concerned, though, that unless Obama has the courage to scare the pigs into some kind of restraint, my prayers will be unanswered.

Please, Mr. President, stop fucking around regarding police violence against these growing protests.

note - I worked in the public safety sector for 13 years, five of them as a shielded, sworn officer. I do not use the term "pig" toward police officers in general. Just toward the pigs themselves. We know them when we have to endure them.

Monday, November 21, 2011

In Praise of Obama

Let it never again be said again that Progressive Alaska never publishes anything that praises President Obama:
MR. GIGOT: Guantanamo's still open, military tribunals of enemy combatants are being pursued. A lot of the things that were very, very contentious in your administration have been maintained. And yet, they're not so controversial now. What do you make of that?

MR. CHENEY: They campaigned against most of those programs. They're reluctant converts. But I think they've made the right decision with respect to Guantanamo. It's still open.

There are reasons why we did what we did, and they're still valid. And I think they've learned, over time, the benefit of that. And I'll give them credit for the enhanced drone program and the fact that they have been very successful in terms of taking out additional targets.

MR. GIGOT: You spent a lot of time on Iran and their nuclear program when you were in office. They are back in the news again with the recent U.N. report that they are pursuing a weapons system. Do you have any doubts that they are intent upon getting a bomb?

MR. CHENEY: I don't. I think they clearly are committed.
MR. GIGOT: Remember in 2007, the national intelligence estimate which said with high confidence that Iran had abandoned their program in 2003. How do we get from 2007 to now 2011 where the U.N. essentially says, "Yes, they have been pursuing it across this whole period"?

MR. CHENEY: I remember when the N.I.E. came out, I was actually confronted by friends of the U.S. who suggested that we had arranged for that finding to alleviate any requirement we might have felt to do something about the Iranian nuclear program. That's not what we were doing.

What the N.I.E. process produced was clearly a flawed result. It, in part, flowed out of the continuing legacy, if you will, of the national intelligence estimate on Iraq [weapons of mass destruction] that turned out to be wrong as well. There's a process that had been adhered to. But it produced a flawed result, without question.
MR. GIGOT: We have news reports that Israel is thinking again about a strike on the Iranian nuclear facilities. You faced a similar situation regarding Syria. From your memoir, I know that the Israeli officials came to you and said, "Here's the intelligence we have about Syria." Tell us how it played out inside the administration.

MR. CHENEY: This would have been early 2007. We acquired intelligence that said the North Koreans had assisted the Syrians in building a nuclear reactor in eastern Syria. We, I, had great confidence that this was good intelligence. I advocated a course of action that would have involved a military strike by the U.S. to take it out.

It was a target all by itself in the desert. There wasn't likely to be any collateral damage. The reactor had not yet been fueled, so there wasn't likely to be any radioactive fallout. It was a very doable proposition.

The decision was made not to do that. The president was reluctant. Partly, there were doubts about, "How good's the intelligence?" Again, part of the legacy of the earlier failures on Iraq WMD.
The Israelis decided they'd take it out, and they did. It worked perfectly. There was never any word at that time. It was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate to the Iranians that we were prepared to use military force, if necessary, to block proliferation or the acquisition of a terrorist-sponsoring state of nuclear capability. Unfortunately, I lost the argument.
MR. GIGOT: Do you have any doubt that if the Israelis conclude the U.S. will not act militarily against Iran, they will strike on their own?

MR. CHENEY: I think there's a very good possibility that the Israelis view this as a fundamental threat to their existence and that they will act.
MR. GIGOT: If you were president, what would you do to dissuade them?

MR. CHENEY: I'm not sure I would. If they decide they need to do that, I would like to think the U.S. would be supportive.

Glenn Greenwald, commenting on Cheney's lavish praise of Obama wrote the following a few hours ago:
Along with most neocon figures from the Bush era, Cheney has lavished Obama with praise before for his Terrorism and civil liberties policies, but this is the first time that he so graciously expressed his gratitude for being fully shielded for his crimes. Indeed, we should all be grateful, because as President Obama has taught us (though not the Indonesians) — and just as Chancellor Katehi today teaches — the only way we can begin healing and moving forward is if we all band together to shield those in power (but nobody else) from the consequences of their wrongdoing.
 Greenwald is so right about this.  One of the commenters at one of the two previous post (I have hours of papers still to grade) linked Iraq War apologist Jonathan Chait about why Obama is such a transformationally positive figure in American politics.  Greenwald goes after Chait (and other anti-Democracy American exceptionalism apologists) as well as Cheney:
Jonathan Chait, whose career (like the magazine that long employed him) has been devoted to complaining that liberals are so unreasonable and unSerious (that is when he and his magazine wern’t cheerleading for the Iraq War and vowing to re-make the Democratic Party in the image of Joe Lieberman), today complains that liberals are so unreasonable because they don’t swoon for Obama the way he does; maybe Chait could ask Dick Cheney to explain to him why this is so. Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan today observes that Chait, David Frum and himself all adore Obama and believe he has done an absolutely superb job, and just cannot for the life of him understand why many liberals don’t share this sentiment. Aside from the fact that the question sort of answers itself — is it really baffling that a President viewed with such adoration by David Frum, Andrew Sullivan and the permanently-New-Republick-ed Jonathan Chait doesn’t provoke the same level of giddiness among many liberals? — perhaps Sullivan also could ask Dick Cheney to explain this to him, or ask Tom Friedman, Morris Davis, Jack Goldsmith, Anthony Romero, Paul Krugman, Eric Schneiderman, or this consensus of experts (or, for that matter, Andrew Sullivan or Andrew Sullivan).
Go, Glenzilla!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Attempt to Answer a Question on My Hesitancy Regarding Obama - Updated

At the previous post here,  "Time for a 'Mic Check' Moment with Obama," an anonymous commenter asked a fair question.  I'll try to answer it as fairly:

I'm with you re the "mic" check of President Obama, and your response to Rahm Emanuel's speech is on target. 
Nevertheless, I'm wondering.... You have written post after post after post lambasting Obama, thus conveying your writhing contempt for the man.
I've lambasted Obama, as I have every President of the United States since Lyndon Baines Johnson.  The term "writhing contempt" is highly inaccurate and unfair.  What have I written about this president that was untrue? 
So, I'm asking you to name a progressive--just one--who would have done a better job by now. Not a fantasy candidate such as Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kuchinch, or Elizabeth Warren--an actual, viable person who could have taken the job and run with it in a first term to solve the nation's problems and to undo the damage inflicted by eight the years of the Cheney/Bush regime. You mentioned Howard Dean above. Would Dean be a successful president at this point?
Dr. Dean may have been more successful as chief executive, but he would never have been elected.  The media would have treated him with far more disdain than they did Obama. 

It has become almost impossible for a real liberal or progressive such as the late Sen. Paul Wellstone to rise to the top tier of presidential aspirations through our two-party system.  Obama had to raise hundreds of millions to be elected, and then had to surround himself with staffers and a cabinet who would get more.  He now has to raise over a billion to get re-elected, and will have to make more shady deals like those that led to killing the UN climate forum in Copenhagen, relaxation of ozone pollution standards, going ever so light on BP re the Gulf, rejecting a cluster bomb treaty, and so forth.
It seems to me that so-called progressives might be part of the problem. Aside from seizing every opportunity to voice displeasure with Obama and indict him as "just another G.W. Bush," what have progressives really done to advance an agenda that the president can adopt as policy? 
During the health care debate, hundreds of thousands of us tried.   His staff, more concerned with continued campaign financial support from the health care and insurance industries than with playing LBJ-style hardball with congress, flipped us off.  On many environmental issues, we are making proposals that would be workable with full-blown White House support that included heavy duty arm-twisting on congress.
I'd say not much, because of infighting and disarray in their own ranks.
 Please provide a specific example of how that came down.
Progressives simply can't get their act together, beyond being the voice of doom and gloom. 
In my view, we only have a short time remaining in which to reduce CO2 emissions radically.  By the mid-2020's, the oceans will no longer be able to sustain life-producing environments as they have for hundreds of thousands of years.  2/3 of the planet's human population will then simply die off over a couple of devastating generations, during which time wars like we have never known will rage, further polluting the earth.

Playing two-party politics as we plummet to that point seems absurd.  And awfully immoral.

You may call this "doom and gloom," but thousands of scientists - more every day - agree with this assessment.
To my mind, it's significant that Matt Yglesias, who has left Think Progress for Slate, expressed a weariness with intra-progressive differences in his farewell blog post at TP.
Since you seem to have all the answers here at Progressive Alaska, isn't it about time for you to toss your hat in the ring and run for president yourself?
I've been asked several times over the past 33 years to run for the Alaska Legislature.  So has my wife.  We've passed.

I'm 65, enjoy my work as a music educator, performer, composer and community volunteer.  I serve on three boards now, down from five. 

In 2008, my wife and I donated thousands of dollars to Democratic Party candidates, donated several hundred dollars to Obama's campaign, and hundreds of volunteer hours to him, as we opened up our house for weeks to his enthusiastic young campaign workers for their quarters and meals.

Now, my anonymous friend to whom I've responded, tell me why you think it is time for me to materially support this particular lesser of two evils?

He really doesn't seem to want my support, anyway.  I've responded to over 100 emails from his various fundraising arms, and have gotten no answers to any of my questions.  (I think they just wanted my check or credit card number.  What do you think?)

The GOP crop of clowns is so pathetic your dog or mine could do a better, or at least less harmful job, of running the country.  Barring something we don't know about yet, Obama will be president of the USA until January 20th, 2017.

Update:  Thanks for some of the civil comments.  I hope Peggy in OH, to whom this post is a response, feels better soon.

Don't you love it when somebody comes over here from another blog's commenters, and then writes:
I truly pity the people around you that have to stomach your continuous bile.
 followed by:
do your children hate you, do you have a teeny dick? What has made you such a foul individual?
 ... followed by more, uh, I guess one might call it "bile."

Nutzola, eh.....?

Gotta say, that and some of the other comments from Obama worshippers commenting here over the past few weeks remind me of this Onion video from the week after the November 2008 election:

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Time for A "Mic Check" Moment with Obama

[The following article, from firedoglake, is based on Obama's message to "Egyptian authorities" during the spring occupation of Tahrir Square.  It has been adapted, to reflect the Mic Check meme from the Occupy Wall Street movement]

--- by Masoninblue

After Obama [gets] back to the United States from his free-trade sellout of the 99% on behalf of the 1%, he should be welcomed at his first public appearance with the following:


I want to be very clear


in calling upon the Egyptian authorities


to refrain from any violence


against peaceful protesters .


The people of Egypt


have rights that are universal.


That includes the right to peaceful assembly and associatio n,


the right to free speech,


and the ability to determine their own destiny.


These are human rights.


And the United States


will stand up for them everywhere .


Mr. President


Put your money


where your mouth is.


(h/t to commenters Psychonalystus and ex-PFC Chuck @ nakedcapitalism for reminding me of Obama’s speech. See the comment @


comment 11/20 @12:45 am & 1:22 am)

Powerful Images from Cairo as Tahrir Square Occupiers Mass to Stop the Military's Counter-Revolution

Bodies Sunday night in Tahrir Square, Cairo
Thousands protesting the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' recent anti-Democracy acts have been attacked by military and police units Sunday, leaving many dead, according to reports.  Here's RT TV footage from about an hour ago:

UC Davis Police Riot Ramifications and Other OWS News

Below are some video images that have been recently posted.

But first of all, you might consider adding your name to the petition calling for University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi's dismissal or resignation.  Close to 30,000 people have signed the letter so far.

The UC Davis Faculty Association's Board has issued a letter calling for her resignation:
The DFA Board calls for the immediate resignation of Chancellor Katehi. The Chancellor’s authorization of the use of police force to suppress the protests by students and community members speaking out on behalf of our university and public higher education generally represents a gross failure of leadership.

Given the recent use of excessive force by police against “occupy” protestors at UC Berkeley and elsewhere, the Chancellor must have anticipated that, by authorizing police action, she was effectively authorizing their use of excessive force against peaceful UCD student protestors. The Chancellor’s role is to enable open and free inquiry, not to suppress it.

We also call for a policy that will end the practice of forcibly removing non-violent student, faculty, staff, and community protestors by police on the UC Davis campus. The University of California should be taking a leadership role in encouraging the exercise of free speech, not in suppressing it.
Further evidence of coordination of assaults on peaceful citizens legally engaging in their right to protest grievances is growing.  The ACLU and other organizations are filing masses of Freedom of Informaton Requests regarding several police actions in communities and on campuses:
Recently, cities like New York, Portland, Denver, Salt Lake City and Oakland cleared out their Occupy Wall Street protests from their communities.  Beforehand, many cities participated in several conference calls with representatives from the Federal Government about ways to break up these protests.

What the Feds role during these discussions hasn’t been fully ascertained.  From their statements, they implied they were just giving advice and this was a local matter.    These cities were advised by the Feds to seek out legal reasons to justify clearing out these protesters, like focusing on ordinances like  curfew and zoning.

We don’t know who initiated the conference calls. Also, we don’t know what all agencies that participated in these calls or what all was discussed.

Since the official statements are a bit lacking, two organizations have filed a Freedom of Information Act requests asking for “any and all communications regarding the Occupy Wall Street Movement.”
Rick Ellis, Minneapolis Top News Examiner reporter, was able to get the Department of Homeland Security to admit they had a limited role.  He reported that the Federal Protective Services (FPS) assisted the Portland Police.  However, they were charged for mostly insuring that Federal Buildings that were nearby were protected.  The FPS did make some arrests in Portland.  The number of arrests is currently unknown.

There seems to be many issues swirling about the Washington DC wind.  Did the Feds initiate these meetings between the cities?  What legal authority do they have?  What agencies were involved?  If true, is the Obama administration supportive of the Occupy movement as they claim?

Since the statements from the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department have been lacking, I wouldn’t be surprised if the FOIA requests show that the Feds were in reality very active.
 Nor would I be surprised.  At all.

Here's a reading of one of Digby's recent columns on the dehumanization of OWS participants:

Here's a compilation, showing some of the more egregious moments of police misconduct or criminal activity, caught on video:

Here's Chancellor Katehi, walking through hundreds of silent, sitting students at UC Davis Saturday evening, as they protest the police brutality on their campus Friday:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Wild Coast Youtube

This is a youtube I made this morning, using the MIDI version of my newest orchestral work, The Wild Coast (finished last weekend) and images by Erin McKittrick.  Here are the program notes:

And here is the video:

all images courtesy of Erin McKittrick and Ground Truth Trekking

Occupy UC Davis Protesters Suffer Chemical Burns for Peaceful Sit-In

This is pretty disgusting.  At least one of the kids was admitted to a hospital for treatment for chemical burns.  Here's a vdeo (one of many, as one can see dozens of students taking pictures and videos with phones and laptops).  This jerk should have his badge pulled:

More on this at Huffington Post.

And at Politicalgates, wherePatrick seems shocked at what has happened to the campus police forces at some U.S. colleges.

Steve Aufrecht from What Do I Know? visited Occupy Anchorage Thursday, and posted video.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thursday's Bat Signal at the Brooklyn Bridge OWS Event

On Thursday, there were several Occupy Wall Street events in the NYC area.  One was the march on the Brooklyn Bridge, where 99 people were arrested.  In the picture above, demonstrators are in the foreground, the Verizon Building in the background.  Projected on it is what has come to be called the "Bat Signal."  Here's what it looked like from a much taller building:

Here's an article at Boing Boing with one of the creators of the Bat Signal.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Obama has pledged to expand America's military in the Asia Pacific as a 'top priority'"

Some people, when Obama visits the Pacific, see pink unicorns and happy kids.

The UK Telegraph sees something else:
Barack Obama has pledged to expand America's military in the Asia Pacific as a "top priority" as he declared the US intends to shift its focus from the Middle East.

"As we end today's wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and missions in the Asia-Pacific a top priority," he said.

"Reductions in US defence spending will not – I repeat, will not – come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific.

In a 25-minute address to the Australian parliament described by the White House as an "anchor speech" for his 9-day visit across the region, Mr Obama said the US "is a Pacific power – and we are here to stay."

"Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in this region," he said. 
 Maybe he's merely out there putting up some sort of smoke screen for the probable plans for a war against Iran.  Or maybe he's looking for bigger campaign donations from Raytheon, General Electric and other war merchants of death.

We'll see.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Will The Occupy Wall Street Movement Help Obama's 2012 Chances? Not Likely

Not a good week for progressives attempting to defend the president's domestic actions. 

I.  Earlier in the week, the Obama administration helped coordinate the simultaneous shutdowns of several OWS encampments around the country:
Remember when people were freaking out over the Patriot Act and Homeland Security and all this other conveniently ready-to-go post-9/11 police state stuff, because it would obviously be just a matter of time before the whole apparatus was turned against non-Muslim Americans when they started getting complain-y about the social injustice and economic injustice and income inequality and endless recession and permanent unemployment? That day is now, and has been for some time. But it’s also now confirmed that it’s now, as some Justice Department official screwed up and admitted that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated the riot-cop raids on a dozen major #Occupy Wall Street demonstration camps nationwide yesterday and today. (Oh, and tonight, too: Seattle is being busted up by the riot cops right now, so be careful out there.)

Rick Ellis of the Minneapolis edition of Examiner.com has this, based on a “background conversation” he had with a Justice Department official on Monday night:
Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.
According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.
Well gosh, that’s exactly what happened. Good to know the FBI and DHS are “always there to help a brother out.” (This is their motto, in Latin.)

(And for those who are understandably doubtful about Examiner.com as a news source, here’s an AP story from a couple hours ago that verifies everything except the specific mention of DHS coordination.)
Here's Michael Moore on this:

II. Yesterday, around Washington State, Obama's Justice Department raided at last 14 legal (by Washington State and local laws) medical marijuana dispensaries, in coordinated raids that were most likely signed off on by the president:

In one of the largest day of raids on marijuana dispensaries since President Obama took office, at least 14 dispensaries were hit in Washington state yesterday in a coordinated set of actions. From the Seattle Times:
At least 14 Puget Sound-area medical-marijuana dispensaries were swept up in a long-expected law-enforcement raid that ranks as the largest since the state approved medical marijuana.
The coordinated raids across Thurston, Pierce and King counties targeted dispensaries that, according to law enforcement, were hiding behind the medical-marijuana law to make illegal sales, in some cases to people who were not patients. More than a dozen people were arrested.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle said the raids in Seattle were part of four ongoing investigations.
The multiple raids across Washington state included both local and federal law enforcement agencies.
According to a statement from the Department of Justice, the dispensaries targeted were not just violating federal laws against marijuana; they were also in violation of the state’s medical marijuana law. From United States Attorney office of the Western District of Washington:
Today, Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local law enforcement executed search warrants in four ongoing federal investigations in Western Washington relating to illegal drug distribution and other crimes in violation of federal law. Each of the investigations targets commercial enterprises that purport to operate as “medical” marijuana establishments but also fail to comply with applicable state law.
As set forth in the search warrant affidavits unsealed by the U.S. District Court today, these businesses attracted the attention of federal law enforcement for a number of reasons: their failure to abide by state medical marijuana guidelines; indications that they were distributing large amounts of drugs; and evidence they were laundering large amounts of money. Some of these marijuana stores were the subject of complaints from their surrounding communities as well as medical marijuana supporters, concerned about businesses operating outside the letter and spirit of state law. One operator was arrested this morning for violating the court ordered terms of his federal supervised release for a prior federal conviction.
*emphasis added.

We will likely find out in the coming months if these raids were just another piece of the Obama administration’s multi-agency war on medical marijuana or were exclusively about prosecuting a handful of bad actors who were  flaunting the state’s medical marijuana laws.

It would be easier to believe the DOJ’s claims that these federal raids were part of a good faith effort to enforce the state’s medical marijuana laws if Obama administration had not already taken so many actions to undermine states’ medical marijuana systems.