Sunday, July 23, 2017

The fifth quarter winds down?

The billionaire senior executives at Countrywide Financial, Washington Mutual, and IndyMac were responsible for a system of collectively making hundreds of thousands of fraudulent mortgage loans, then effectively betting against them with subsequent investments. This scam wrecked the American housing industry and caused a global financial crisis in 2008. We are still recovering. Regulators at the Office of Thrift Supervision, then the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and then the Federal Reserve, made no criminal referrals in the case. A Frontline report found that the FBI didn't even talk to whistleblowers that had offered information during the investigation. Not only did the criminals at the top of the industry get away without prosecution, but systematically, most took home fat parachute bonuses as well, some in the range of hundreds of millions. Nobody seems to care about this, though. There were no pitchforks, no riots, no posses. People still express their everlasting support for the political icons that permitted the perpetrators to skate.

But O.J. got off because he's rich. And that is a bridge too far.

At last, O.J. Simpson is out of prison and not a moment too soon either. The former professional football player and actor, now 70, is somebody that did get prosecuted in 2008. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison for a robbery and kidnapping case involving his friend, a man who had robbed him of his own possessions, and a man that just testified in his defense at his parole hearing after nine years of prison time. Many are outraged of course. They couldn't give two craps about the details of the Nevada case. They want Simpson put away forever because of his acquittal and widely-assumed guilt in a separate murder case that occurred 14 years previous to the night Simpson stormed into a Las Vegas hotel room and a man that didn't go to prison held the only gun. On the ESPN documentary O.J.: Made in America last year, former Simpson defense lawyer Carl Douglas described the connection as such: "This was the fifth quarter. They got us back for winning our case." The judicial system of the United States also permitted "double-jeopardy," in this case by trying Simpson a second time for the Brown/Goldman murders in a civil trial that handed down a $33 million penalty. Hmm, that number again... a $33 million judgement, and then a 33-year prison sentence in a separate case. But there was no link between the two, right? I promise Americans that support this garbage that while it's frightening to consider a so-called "murderer" on the loose, it should be even more frightening to live in a country where criminal sentences are handed down for perceived offenses entirely peripheral to those on trial. There's nothing in the Bill of Rights that suspends for "make goods."

If you're still hung up about what you perceive as a subversion of justice in the Brown/Goldman murder case, target your ire. This was a criminal case during which one of the detectives, the first on the scene, was caught on tape not only slurring African-Americans after he claimed under oath that he hadn't, but, lest we forget, and most importantly, admitting that he planted evidence in cases he had worked and believed that lying was sometimes a necessity on the witness stand. (I've never been sure how this planting evidence disclosure qualifies as "the race card.") The Simpson jury was not even allowed to hear the most inflammatory recordings, ones in respect to the officer's boasts to having done violence against "niggers" and committing police misconduct on multiple occasions. As a result of the audio presentation of his deceit under oath in this same trial, he returned to the stand and asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when asked if he had planted evidence in this case-- and then was subsequently convicted of perjury over his false testimony. And you believe that the jury delivered an improper verdict in the Brown/Goldman trial?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Baltic eyes are smiling

7/18/17 update: Right on cue, Glenn Greenwald reports on the new alliance between the most militant neocons on the planet, the men that led us into Iraq, and the Cold Warriors of the Democratic Party. Both groups love Israel, the Saudis, the Syrian rebels, and war, and they despise Donald Trump and Russia. You know some of the names: Michael Chertoff, Bill Kristol. The group is proudly "bipartisan" so what is there for us to fear. A money quote from Glenn: "Even if Trump could be brought into line with neocon orthodoxy-- which has largely happened-- his ineptitude and instability posed a threat to their agenda."

The Democrats are not even capable of putting their eye on the ball, let alone keeping it there. Still with this Russia nonsense. The retro-xenophobia and the attempts to escalate tension between the two countries that simply does not need to exist. We are not at war with the Russians, just as we are not at declared war with anybody else. The Russian Federation no more influenced the U.S. election in 2016 than Ukrainian nationals influenced it on behalf of Clinton.

What you’re seeing in the world right now are flailing attempts to resuscitate the Cold War, a faction of Deep State agents in the U.S. let down by the election of Donald Trump, who cares more about doing business with Russian oligarchs than declaring war on them. His motivations create their own problem, but the violence that results is less quantifiable. The electoral defeat of Hillary Clinton was a crippling blow to the plans of the U.S. Security State to get our military and our espionage agents behind Ukraine and its separatist plans for Crimea. Was it wrong for Trump’s son-in-law to meet with an attorney in Russia that represented private entities (but not the Kremlin)? I believe it was, but certainly it wasn't by the standards of Washington. Is it also wrong for Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, to serve on the board of Burisma Holdings, the largest natural gas company in the Ukraine? Trump employs his son-in-law in a capacity that clearly violates the 1967 White House nepotism statute, but Democrats have now gone limp in their opposition to Jared Kushner as a de facto member of the Trump cabinet. They have little political cover to stop it ever since Bill Clinton named his wife de facto Secretary of Health Care in 1993. The corruption is so pervasive across parties-- and across national governments-- that it all amounts to a complete blur. It’s called capitalism, and corruption is its natural state. The United States and its intertwined corporations are no more a neutral player upon the geopolitical landscape than Russia and its companies.

Now, what is this Russian BS distracting us from? Well, let’s start that discussion with what it’s designed to distract us from. Even if they are guilty of what they’re accused of, and there’s been no evidence provided to the public confirming that they are, the Russians' “hack” of the U.S. presidential election was not alleged to be a hack upon voting machines or upon the voting results. The criminals in that particular legal case are the American companies, and the politicos they’ve purchased, that have eliminated the paper trail of ballots and made our elections so vulnerable to attack. What are Democrats doing about that problem in the wake of this "scandal"? Continuing to take the money of the companies that make the electronic voting machines, that's what. Instead, the alleged “hack” was upon the internal emails of the Democratic National Committee, with no evidence existing, except in the minds of losing political consultants, that the election was swayed one way or another by their reveal, and that, more importantly, revealed the misdeeds and campaign tampering that was done by the Democratic National Committee. The more we talk about the Russians, they reason, the less we talk about the DNC's misconduct and lapse of ethics.

Next, it’s distracting progressives from the necessary restructuring of the Left and the permanent banishment of their sellout representatives. The nationwide campaign strategy of “you’re to our Right, you’re racist, you’re to our Left, you’re sexist,” and "we're going to  blame everybody but ourselves," has worked wonders to rid Washington D.C. and most of the 50 state capitols of feckless Democrats, but perhaps it’s time to select a new path. It’s also distracting from our government’s real crimes-- the supplying of arms to Saudi Arabia to help annihilate the Saudi kingdom’s slave state, Yemen; the attempts by Congress to slip major giveaways to defense contractors, the legitimate attempts by some to separate Donald Trump from his private business that keeps him in violation of federal law, the failure of anybody in Washington, outside Bernie Sanders, to push for Single Payer health care while Republican lawmakers get busy buying up health insurance stocks.

We need to start considering whether Democrats are losing on purpose. I’m being very serious about this. The Intercept reports that Clinton strategist Mark Penn, who is still pushing to steer Democrats to the right, runs an investment firm, Stagwell Media LLC, that is buying up Republican-centered consulting companies. And who is standing in the way of Trump's impeachment on any number of legitimate offenses? If you think it's Republicans, you're only half right. The DNC, internally, believes impeachment proceedings would negatively impact the mid-term elections for Democrats.

There's no end in sight to the Russian distraction, and it's worth noting for context that the attacks haven't been limited to Trump either. 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has faced innuendo and sneers for traveling to the Kremlin and meeting with the Russian president. Again, for the DNC, it's about blaming anybody but themselves for their electoral failures. The relentless media drumbeat against anybody opposed to the entrenched Democratic Party power structure makes a person wonder if there isn't something of significance to the fact that the Ukrainian-- anti-Russian-- meddling in the 2016 election has been almost completely ignored, and that America's influence upon foreign elections continues to be a perennial non-issue. By the admission of Victoria Nuland, a diplomat in the Obama State Department that also, interestingly, as a top foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney, the U.S. has spent more than $5 billion(!) since 1991 influencing elections-- in that's in Ukraine alone.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Burning down the house

Another Independence Day has come and gone, but this one felt different… sounded different. In Iowa, fireworks are legal to buy and detonate within the state for the first time in decades. I haven’t driven into Missouri for about three months, but I assume that, in the meantime, the warehouses of explosives that have cozied up to the state border for years have all gone belly-up, or are now selling methamphetamine instead... selling it out in the open, that is. Incidentally, I’ve always wondered this: if Missourians want to buy fireworks, do they also have to drive to the border? 

In our Des Moines condo, during summer, the high velocity cooling system tends to drown out all indications of an outside world, but the sound of these first-year, grade-A firecrackers are successfully able to penetrate the walls. Beyond the exterior of our building on Tuesday, it was Aleppo. I was afraid to peer out but what I imagined could be seen was a sort of Mad Max post-apocalyptic, dystopian netherworld-- only wide scale destruction and some Humvees driving downtown dwellers like my wife and me to safe passage. The city was finished shooting off their works next to the river at 10 o’clock, and that’s when the ordinance that permits private use says those explosions are supposed to end as well, but for another good hour after, it continued to be, truly, just one pop after another, as if the municipal display had never ended. Most were probably being set off near the public housing complex up the street, but the way the noise ricochets off the bricks and concrete and pavement in the city, it could have been coming from blocks away.

As I drove to work early Wednesday, the toasted remains of the Moon Travelers, Tasmanian Devils, and Red Rhinos laid upon the streets. As I failed to steer adequately around one or two of the shards with the Civic, I hoped that none would go off belatedly, like so many IEDs on the byways of Iraq. There was still so much smoke in the air that I could barely see the debris to avoid it. As I type this, it is now July 6th, and after 10 o'clock in the evening, and I still hear crackling outside the house.

Insurance investigators now speculate that a fire gutting a Des Moines home earlier in the week may have been caused by fireworks. Stay tuned. Tickets were issued in Cedar Rapids to people who threw fireworks from cars, and in Marion, IA, a person was cited for setting a trash dumpster on fire with his party sticks. In Waterloo, where they're always trying to top the rest of us, a woman was shot in the shoulder by a stray bullet that came at her in the middle of the civic fireworks barrage. Any initial confusion on her part would have seemed logical to me. A man in Sioux City lost a hand on the Fourth when one of his timed explosions mistimed, and a six-week-old child in Swisher, IA took on serious burns, fractures, and a broken femur, when, we can only presume, the baby failed to shoot out the detonator on a Comet Storm with her .22. A GoFundMe campaign has been started to aid the family, and I can’t imagine a more American story than this one. Privatize the fireworks displays after you’ve already privatized the health care needed to pay for the multiple surgeries required to save a baby from a bottle rocket that was shot sideways into her internal organs, rather than up and into the night sky.

It’s all worth it, of course. Sure, young children are terrified of the appearance and sound of fireworks. (As they should be. Children possess many irrational fears, but this isn’t one of them, as the earlier story demonstrates.) Dogs and cats are visibly anxious. Many military vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder say they don't appreciate the festive explosions that purposely mimic a firefight, but the Fourth of July isn't really about them, is it? I say you're the one that’s “butt hurt” if I can’t trivialize their anguish by play-acting “the rocket’s red glare” next to my septic tank. 

The industry of fireworks retail is sure to bring tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to the state of Iowa. No more staring up at Missouri on all of the economic charts. As point-of-purchase displays go-- at the big box stores, firecrackers are now making the sports cards and sticker books shelf look like a clearance rack. The sudden influx of high-denomination greenbacks flowing into state coffers is going to enable lawmakers at the Capitol to withdraw their highly-contentious tax on libertarians. Farmers will start rotating the corn and soybeans in their fields with what’s sure to be a bumper crop of Triple Whistlers (if it doesn't rain). And we can finally build that wall between us and Missouri. We’ll make those “Show-Me” pricks pay for it, too.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Political SmackDown!

Satire is no longer what closes on Saturday night, as George S. Kaufman once opined. It is alive and thriving, and you’re as likely to find it in Wheeling and Indianapolis as you are at the Public Theater. Let’s begin a search. Hey, small-time wrestling might be on to something.

(Singing) In the/deep/ dark/ hills/of/ eastern Kentucky (end singing)-- and Appalachia thereabouts, the grappler making headlines these days goes by the sobriquet “Progressive Liberal." He's Dan Richard, and a good guy in the ring he ain’t. Recalling Andy Kauffman, circa 1983: Progressive Liberal is smug. He condescends. He gripes. He corrects the fans: “Do you live in a holler?.. No!.. You live in a hollow.” Beware his knock-out maneuver. He has dubbed it “the liberal agenda.”

Progressive Liberal? That’s pretty bad. Infinitely worse, you would have to concede, than being just one or the other. He’s gotten death threats for voicing his opinions so unabashedly. Why wouldn’t he? He told a crowd in West Virginia that the government needs to take people’s guns away. When he spoke that night, according to Deadspin, “a patron displayed a pistol in a holster on his right hip and started rubbing it.” Wow, Kathy Griffin much? When Richards’ real hometown, Richmond, Virginia, didn’t add enough sizzle to the promotional card, he changed it to Washington D.C. He’s greeted at each event these days by chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump.” Interestingly, in Mexico's lucha libre wrestling circuit, a "heel" named Sam Adonis touts the accomplishments of United States President Trump.

You can find a lot of information now online, whether it’s at the Washington Post or Salon or wherever, about whether or not the Progressive Liberal that appears in entertainment venues really represents Richards’ political outlook, but I have no interest at all in that exploration. As far as I'm concerned, Richard’s life constitutes an alternative reality that lies outside the arena. Is this character a new mirror upon Trump America? I don’t think so exactly. It’s easy to imagine reactionary crowds just as angry at such an athlete if Hillary Clinton were the president today. Fans on both the left and the right seem to be enjoying the Progressive Liberal. For different reasons, naturally. On the alienation/affection spectrum, let’s place him at “Archie Bunker.”

I depart today with this treasured comment exchange between two anonymous web surfers, found beneath the Deadspin story earlier this week…

“I am absolutely mystified that people attend something like this. Like, I realize that this takes place in bumfuck wherever, but still. Don’t they have something more productive to do with their time, like sniff glue?”

(reply) “Is that you, Progressive Liberal?”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The going rate for civil servants killing unarmed black people

Yesterday, Michael Brown's parents, Lezley McSpadden and Michael Brown Jr., received a $1.5 million settlement in response to their wrongful death suit against Ferguson, Missouri. That city is the former employer of police officer Darren Wilson.

Lilly Workneh at Huffington Post points out that the sum is slightly more than the $1.26 million a white Maryland family got when an officer shot and killed their dog in February of 2014.

Not only is it appropriate here to make note of this obscenity of American jurisprudence in devaluing Brown's life over that of a friggin' dog, I'm sure that none of us can easily imagine a scenario in which a black family sees even a dime if police shoot their dog.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The thin blue line

They're running quickly through the list of black men to shoot. Now white police are shooting off-duty black cops. This happened in St. Louis Wednesday night. The injured officer's attorney says he considers the incident to be more than an accident.

I'm not sure why a black man would ever come to the aid of a police officer, if they saw them under assault. All black men are considered dangerous, and shooting at them is codified by the law. If an officer feels threatened, they have a license to shoot and kill, so being perceived as a threat makes one a threat. You can comply, like Philandro Castile. You can do exactly as you're told, like this still-unnamed officer. No matter.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Castile verdict

Consider this the equivalent of a Facebook "share."

Shaun King from the New York Daily News..

Jury just found the officer who murdered #PhilandoCastile in cold blood not guilty.
Expected. Infuriating.
My blood is boiling. Philando did nothing wrong. Broke no laws. He wasn't even supposed to be pulled over. It was racial profiling.
He then gets shot repeatedly in front of his fiancé and her daughter in broad daylight.
This is bullshit. Absolute bullshit. I say that with a full vocabulary. This is bullshit.
They wonder why we riot and tear shit up. What the hell do you expect people to do. You asked people to stay calm and wait for justice. They stayed calm and waited for justice - and then got this.
Quote me on this: Fuck this system. If you've ever heard me speak anywhere, you've heard me say what I'm about to say a million times.
It's not broken. The justice system is not broken. It is functioning exactly the way it was designed and built to function.
My God I am so angry.