Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Bastille Day!

I don't know if it is the heat typically or purely coincidental, but there have been a number of revolutions that resulted in new nations or independence in the month of July. Bastille Day happens to be one of my favorites, and never more so than with the change of administrations this year in France.

We owe so much of our nation coming into existence to the French, from figures like the Marquis de Lafayette, who negotiated a great deal of that support from Louis XVI. He was later one of the guiding figures in the French revolution as well as one of those who was a moderating influence on it.
Trivia questions for the day. looking at the intersection of the French and ourselves.
1. What was the actual name, as distinct from his title, of Lafayette?
2. Which of the following, while French nationals, are considered United States Founding Fathers as well as significant figures in the French Revolution?
a. Comte de Rochambeau
b. Comte de Grasse
c. Admiral de la Touche Treville
d. Marquis de Lafayette

3. We refer to the press/ news media, and now increasingly some bloggers as the fourth estate; the first, second and third estates are a traditional division from the French. What are the first, second and third estates?

4. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 ended the American Revolutionary War. The failure of the Estates General of 1789 led to the forming of the National Assembly and the French Revolution, inspired in part by our own Continental Congress and the American Revolution. What public issue that we face today was addressed by the National Assembly?
a. national security
b. debt and taxation
c. balance of power between church and state

5. The French Revolution was supportive of what economic system?
a. socialism
b. capitalism
c. mercantilism
d. co-operativism / communalism

6. What was the motto of the French revolution, inspired by the American Revolution, that continues to be their motto today?
a. liberty, equality, brotherhood
b. all for one and one for all
c. bread, wine, freedom

7. What was the intellectual movement that spread across Europe that originated in France that was the foundation for the American Revolution?
a. the Enlightenment
b. the Encyclopediae
c. Naturalism

Vive la France! Vive la liberte! et Vive des questions de trivia!

The solution to the problem is not more of the problem.

In other countries, law enforcement doesn't even routinely carry firearms, onlys special units do. Think what a difference there would be if abandoning our violent and anachronistic gun culture made that possible here. We could avoid crap like this from dirty cops. If we had fewer firearms, if we moved away from the fantasy of firearms and out mythologizing violence, and replaced those false notions with more objective reality and civilization, we could attain that alternative.
The gun culture is not the solution; it is part of the problem.

NYPD cop charged with stealing, selling guns from work

View more videos at:
An NYPD officer has been arrested in connection with a months-long firearms trafficking investigation after he allegedly stole guns from his precinct to be sold on the street and arranged drug buys while on duty, authorities said.
Nicholas Mina was arrested late Thursday and charged with conspiracy, grand larceny and sale of a firearm, among other crimes. Information on an attorney wasn't immediately available. He and four co-conspirators who were also arrested were scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
Authorities say the group allegedly trafficked at least 10 guns over a two-month period. The alleged ringleader of the group, Ivan Chavez, is accused of procuring firearms from various sources and removing serial numbers before selling them, prosecutors said.
See the original report at
Four additional firearms were recovered from his home when a search warrant was executed. Charges against him are pending and information on an attorney wasn't available.
Five of the firearms involved in the trafficking network allegedly came from Mina. The 31-year-old officer allegedly stole four of them from his colleagues' lockers at the Ninth Precinct station house in the East Village. The fifth was his own. Wiretaps of phones for Mina and Chavez reveal incriminating and explicit conversation about gun sales, the indictment says.

Law enforcement sources say one of the buyers was an undercover officer.
A six-year veteran of the force, Mina was part of a 24-hour security detail and had been assigned to guard the lockers after a series of thefts that included bulletproof vests, cash and an iPad along with the guns. One of the bulletproof vests Mina allegedly stole from a locker was recovered by authorities.
Mina was arrested following an investigation by the NYPD Firearms Suppression Unit, Internal Affairs Bureau and Manhattan District Attorney's office. He allegedly confessed to investigators that he stole the guns to support his drug habit.

The district attorney's office says further charges, including drug conspiracy, are possible.
Also charged Friday were Meryl Lebowitz, 64, and Jennifer Sultan, 38. Lebowitz allegedly delivered guns and drugs for the ring. According to the indictment, she confessed to having picked up two guns that had been sold to Chavez and lived one floor below him. Investigators intercepted phone calls between the two, the indictment said.
The indictment alleges Sultan was a gun trafficker and that she had been communicating with Chavez about providing him guns. She and Chavez allegedly engaged in extensive, daily conversation about the guns, as well as providing and selling drugs, the indictment says.
There was no information on attorneys for either of the woman charged in the indictment.
Shimon Prokupecz is WNBC's investigative producer. Jonathan Dienst is WNBC's chief investigative correspondent.

In case you missed it.

I could give a shit if you read what I write or make comments. In fact, I thought it was rather well known that I am "comment adverse" and prefer to not read or respond to them.

From my blog:
These are my opinions and I don’t care if you read this. I blog for myself, but don’t mind if others read what I write. I don’t really want to hear from you–unless you agree with me or unless you can offer intelligent and constructive comments or can say something interesting and informative Please don’t waste your time writing ridiculous, ignorant, and irelevant comments as they end up in the electronic dustbin without being read. Quality over quantity is my preference for comments...

And if you don’t like what I write here–DON’T READ IT!

So, I don't really care if anyone reads these posts--I'm doing this to piss off the people who want me silenced.

Repost from New Trajectory on The UN Small Arms Treaty.

I wanted to do something about the UN Small Arms treaty, but figured I would repost this from NewTrajectory.

A couple of things I wanted to note:
  •  The aim of a potential U.N. arms treaty is to combat the illicit international trade of small arms by "tightening regulation of, and setting international standards for, the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons" in order to "close gaps in existing regional and national arms export control systems that allow weapons to pass onto the illicit market." Even if such a treaty came to pass, U.S. rights and laws regarding the sale and ownership of small arms would still apply within the United States.
  • It is amusing that the people who deny that US Small Arms were going to the Mexican drug lords are now getting upset by Fast and Furious.
  • Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious told Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insisted they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They said they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.
  • Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal.

Ultimately, my question is why does the NRA work at any legislation which would work to limit firearms falling into the wrong hands?

Rene King Thompson: A Sense Of Deja Vu About the U.N. Small Arms Treaty And The NRA

Today we have a guest blogger...  Rene King Thompson.  Ms. Thompson is one of the original 10 founding moms of the Million Mom March and works passionately to reduce gun violence as well as teen suicide.  As you read her thoughts, please also consider the current U.N. Small Arms Treaty talks and the NRA's close ties to gun manufacturers, who both profit from the international arms trade and donate tens of millions of dollars to the NRA.

Below is from Ms. Thompson:

When I hear Wayne LaPierre’s ranting that a UN treaty concerning the regulation of small arms imports and exports would strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights, I feel a sense of déjà vu.  I feel this because 11 years ago, when I was a member of the first Million Mom March NGO to attend the United Nations, I heard the same BS.
Mary-Leigh Blek, Vicky Keller and I had the honor of representing the March in July 2001 at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and it was an extraordinarily educational experience and a fantastic chance to network with others internationally.  For someone like me, who had come to the issue after the Columbine and Jewish Community Center shootings, I had tended to concentrate on what occurred here in the U.S.  This was a chance to understand the issue and the problems globally.
I learned of the problems with gun running and the circulation of illegal guns from one war zone to the next, from one criminal cartel to the next.  I learned about the ties between gun running and the use of kidnapped children being used as child soldiers, drug trafficking, blood gems, and human trafficking.  I came to recognize that this problem wasn’t just our problem. It was a global problem in which our country played both a positive and negative part.

For those who have never had the chance to listen to, let alone participate in a UN conference, it was awe inspiring.  Men and women from every corner of the world coming together respectfully to work to solve an issue, it was magnificent.  While acknowledging state’s (countries) sovereignty and laws, it made several rational recommendations which would help deal with the problems including:

Suggesting to member countries that do not have laws concerning production, importation and exportation of small arms that they enact such laws;

Suggested to member countries that do not have laws concerning illegal stockpiling of firearms that they create such laws, so that small arms cannot move into illegal hands;

Identify and take action against those individuals and organizations who are illegally stockpiling and gun running within individual countries;

Request that licensed manufacturers apply reliable markings on their firearms so that nations can track firearms that are moving into illegal hands;

Insuring that all confiscated or seized small arms are destroyed, so that they cannot be deviated into criminal hands.

Reasonable, rational strategies made so as to deal with crime, terrorism and war.  Efforts made to make it harder for illegal arms dealers to supply weapons to criminal gangs and terrorists and for small arms to move from one war to the next.

And all you heard from the NRA was “No.  It will strip away our Second Amendment freedoms.”  They couldn’t quite understand that (a) none of the suggestions would remove a single legal firearm from a single legal gun owner (b) it didn’t in any way effect legal gun ownership, production or export and (c) the problems being discussed were bigger than just our country.

I watched and listened to several more experienced activists attempt to explain to the NRA NGO members that sovereign countries requesting that gun manufacturers and gun import/exporters working within their countries to register had no effect whatsoever on the U.S. because the U.S. had its’ own laws in place.  They explained the problems and the needs caused by the problems and the solutions that would have a positive effect to resolve said problems.

It didn’t matter to the NRA.  To paraphrase the Marx Brothers, “Whatever you say, we’re against it.” No solution which allowed firearms to be identified, regulated or destroyed was going to be approved by the NRA.  The victims didn’t matter.  The terrorism didn’t matter.  The crime syndicates didn’t matter.  More than once I heard members of their group use the term ‘collateral damage’ after hearing about human beings who had died or had been wounded.  They were more emotionally distressed by the thought of the confiscated firearms being destroyed than they were by the human beings whose lives were destroyed.  They were more incensed that illegal arms dealers might lose business than they were about the terrorist acts committed by those who bought the firearms.  It was apparent to all at the conference that their priorities were not the same as the rest of those in attendance.

And so, here we are, 11 years later and as we continue to work to solve the problem, we note that the NRA and their ilk still fight for the rights of gun runners, arms dealers and those who make money off of the suffering that war, crime and terrorism inevitably bring, all the while claiming that they want to make people free.  Luckily, even the most conservative groups are now starting to question the NRA’s rants since their leaders have made some outrageous claims such as supporting those who have acted treasonously against this country in the past and the NRA’s writing and supporting legislation which would have placed guns back in the hands of convicted felons.  

It would seem that as the rest of us work to take the weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists, we were right to let the NRA just keep speaking, as, left to their own devices, they shot themselves, without any assistance, in the foot.

ADDENDUM (added by Baldr):  A related article from the New York Times:
From the NYT Opinion piece: 
The United States is the world’s main arms exporter, and President Obama deserves credit for reversing American policy in 2009 and agreeing to back an arms trade treaty. Now he must lead the way in ensuring that the final document is robust enough to make a difference. Predictably, the administration is under pressure from the gun lobby even though it has vowed that it will not approve any treaty that impinges on Second Amendment rights. 
Only 52 of the world’s 192 governments have laws regulating arms brokers, and fewer than half of those penalize violators. The United States and a few others have good national controls, and there are 26 United Nations, regional and multilateral arms embargoes in place.

We Just Don't Have Enough Guns in Florida

Or is it we have too many?  Less ease of access to firearms would reduce the frequency of these tragedies.
From MSNBC and the AP

Florida teen dies in game of Russian Roulette

By staff and news services The Associated Press contributed to this report.

A Florida teenager who was shot in the head during a game of Russian Roulette has died.
Thorin R. Montgomery, 17, was pronounced deceased early Sunday at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said.
According to detectives, Montgomery and three of his friends were involved in an apparent game of Russian Roulette at Montgomery’s home on Friday night. Montgomery was the first to have a turn at the game when the .38-caliber revolver discharged and a bullet struck him in the head, the sheriff’s office said.

Montgomery was transported by air to Bayfront Medical Center in critical condition.

An autopsy is pending.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Third-World Gun Bazaars vs. U.S. Gun Shows

I've been invited to guest blog here for the rest of the month.

And to thank my co-bloggers for the honor, I've decided to build upon Laci's recent post by creating a poster to summarize the issue a bit more, showing that our extreme gun culture in the U.S. isn't functionally much different from that of the "third-world" countries we are horrified of.  Enjoy.

Other than the fact that these third-world gun markets are less tidy or well-lit and have a bit more dangerous weapons (like fully-auto machine guns -- though the gunloons here in the U.S. would love to have the ability),  I don't see much difference between the gun market of Darra, Pakistan, for instance, and most gun shows here in the U.S.  As with the Darra market, you can walk into most gun shows here in most states and buy as many gunz you want, right up to .50-caliber sniper rifles and semi-auto assault rifles, no background check needed (from private sellers).

Friday, July 13, 2012

R-money Reality Check

More than 300 people in the United States were struck by stray bullets

Youth Today has a story about a study by researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of California, Davis which was published in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.

he study calculated the frequency of stray-bullet shootings during an 11-month period – a phenomenon, according to researchers, that resulted in at least 317 injuries.

Garen Wintemute, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis conducted the research, which was partially funded by the California Wellness Foundation and the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation.

Using data collected from news alert services such as Google Alerts, in addition to archives, Wintemute and his colleagues tracked stories containing the term “stray bullet” for nearly one year, ultimately counting 284 shootings in which people were injured or killed by stray bullets.

The study defines a stray-bullet shooting any instance in which a bullet escapes the immediate scene of the shooting and results in the injury of at least one person either by directly striking the victim or through associated “secondary mechanisms,” such as injuries sustained from glass shattered by a bullet.

According to the study, 81 percent of victims injured in the stray-bullet shootings included in their research were either unaware of the events or totally disconnected from the events that resulted in gunfire. Stray bullets killed 65 people during the research period, with more than 84 percent of the victims dying the day they were shot and some 27.7 percent dying at the scene of the shooting.

Wintemute encourages “hot-spot policing” – increased enforcement of firearm laws in areas with high levels of gun violence – as a means of curbing stray-bullet shootings.

“Wearing body armor or taking other extreme protective measures is just not practical on a widespread scale, so we need to look at other ways to help communities feel safe from such events,” he said. “Given that these stray-bullet shootings are a byproduct of gun violence in general, it’s plausible that if you prevent the violence, you’ll prevent the stray-bullet shootings.”

Broken Etch-a-sketch?
Could R-money be out as a candidate if this gets bigger (and it will)?
Who would run instead?

cross-posted from Penigma:
Mitts on R-money has changed his positions, and he has apparently LIED, often.

In this particular instance, he appears to have lied about his relationship to Bain Capital. He has variously HIMSELF, characterized it as a full-time leave of absence, and a part time leave of absence, or retirement; the story changed over time. He continued to attend, and apparently preside, over board meetings, and he continued to be compensated for those duties, SEPARATELY - above and beyond his investment earnings, to the tune of $100,000. He didn't get that for being decorative.
While he was 'running' the Olympics, he was making trips back to MA for those meetings on an apparently regular basis, not a one-off visit back home were he just 'dropped by', or had to answer a transition question. Certainly this will raise new and significant questions about the R-money tax returns from those years as well, above and beyond the pressure on R-money to live up to his father's example.
And now, he's gotten caught, repeatedly, by different news organizations for those lies. Real news organizations that do honest actual research, unlike Faux News / Fox News. Some of the news investigation is duplicated, but other parts of the documentation are unique to each news organization.
His campaign claimed that R-money was like an Etch-a-sketch; that he could recreate himself without, effectively, any regard or responsibility for what he previously said, and without regard to any contradictory prior position.
It seems the Etch a Sketch is broken, or at least starting to seriously break down.

From the Boston Globe, who declines to print a retraction, because their reporting is accurate:
Romney stayed longer at Bain

Firm’s 2002 filings identify him as CEO, though he said he left in 1999

Nine SEC filings submitted by four different business entities after February 1999 describe Romney as Bain boss. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff file 1993)
By Callum Borchers and Christopher Rowland
Globe Correspondent Globe Staff / July 12, 2012
Government documents filed by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital say Romney remained chief executive and chairman of the firm three years beyond the date he said he ceded control, even creating five new investment partnerships during that time.
Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.”
Also, a Massachusetts financial disclosure form Romney filed in 2003 states that he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. And Romney’s state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.
Read the rest of the Globe coverage here.

Sorry Mitts on R-money; you can shake your Etch-a-sketch all you want; this isn't going away. I expect it is going to get a lot worse, not better. Which raises an interesting hypothetical question:
if this ongoing news investigation by multiple reporters wrecks the candidacy of Mitt R-money, if this rises to the level of an actual felony prosecution for example --- WHO WOULD BE THE REPLACEMENT CANDIDATE instead of Mitts on R-money?

Nut Gingrich was a disaster, and no one in their right-wing mind could believe he would have a serious chance against Obama. Rick Saint-or-bum, would be even less viable; he dropped out when it became likely he couldn't win his home state. Likewise it is unlikely that Michele Bachmann could win any state, including Minnesota, much less prevail nationally; she's a huge question mark to even get re-elected to Congress, especially living outside CD6.

Given the odd success by the incipient campaign of Ron Paul, could he be the alternate choice? Not that he could win either, but he might actually be the least embarrassing candidate the right could run.

But would the big money that has been behind Mitts on R-money support him? I don't think so, certainly not on the scale they are willing to spend the big bucks on Mittens. What a shame the right can't field good candidates, or come up with any new ideas. All those Bush era retreads would have to go back into whatever closet where they have been hiding from the total embarrassment for the disaster that is the legacy of Dubya and Darth Cheney.
I liked George Romney; he was an impressive man. The son apple didn't so much just fall farther from the tree than is good, it appears to be rotting.

You Are More Likely To Be Shot To Death In The U.S. Than In War-Torn Somalia and Yemen

I thought I would cross post this from Baldr's blog New Trajectory since I've raised the topic more than once here and here.
Pashtun culture even has something called the Mahsud dance, which is a unique dance routine using rifles performed by the Mahsud tribe of Pashtuns. Originally it was used to dance at the time of war, but later on became a cultural dance. The dancers dance empty handed and require only large drums. Nowadays though it is danced with the guns in the dancers hand; loaded guns are taken in one hand, up to the beat of the drum the dancers move forward in a circle. After taking two and half steps, each dancer turns about, and cocks the gun. All the dancers do this in a uniform manner and by completing the turning steps they fire in the air simultaneously. The sound of each of the guns goes on one time and seems to be a single big bang.

That said, here's Baldr's post with some additions made by me::

Monday, June 11, 2012

You Are More Likely To Be Shot To Death In The U.S. Than In War-Torn Somalia and Yemen

Lately,  Oklahoma passed a law allowing open carry of firearms by anyone who could qualify for a conceal carry license, just in case you feel so paranoid about being shot that you must wear your gun on the outside of your jacket “for all the honest world to feel” as you walk into a Tulsa McDonald’s for your Big Mac.
"I am about the right to bear arms and constitutional freedoms," [Sheriff] Walton said. "I however have great concern for this law and the position it puts law enforcement in." 
The law could create more enforcement calls, create unnecessary distractions and interfere with public safety. 
Walton also points to the loss of tactical advantage for individuals that currently carry a concealed weapon. 
"There is a lot of 'what if' that surrounds the law and it will take some time to see how this plays out," Walton said.
Oklahoma isn’t alone.  Many states are moving this way as pro-gun extremist lobbies, particularly the NRA, urge them to do so, despite the fact that surveys show a majority of citizens oppose it.  Even in Tulsa, the opinion was evenly split.  Good enough for the NRA and their legislative lackeys.  By and large, law enforcement organizations in those states are strongly against it.  Apparently the NRA thinks it knows more about what is necessary to control crime.
27 states now allow open carry in some form.  12 of those don’t even require the same scrutiny of a conceal carry license.  17 others allow it under certain circumstances or passively allow it.  Only 6 actively oppose it in all circumstances outside of hunters and law enforcement.
Bolstered by these numbers, gun extremists continue to hold rallies to legalize unregulated open carry, like this recent one in Michigan featuring camo-clad gun fetishists with their assault rifles strapped to their backs as if they were headed off to Afghanistan.
Rallies like these remind me of scenes in some third-world countries, like Somalia or Yemen, where assault weapon-wielding men brandish their guns without fear of reprisal.  So I made the following poster:
But is this really a fair comparison?  Even I had doubts.  After all, Somalia has been in a decades-long civil war, with famine and drought, and is infamous for its hostage-taking pirates.  Yemen isn’t much better.  It, too, has been in a civil war, is a hub for Al-Qaeda, is the poorest Arabian country, has suicide attacks, and has a large swath of its territory chaotically ruled by local warlords instead of a national government (remember “Blackhawk Down”?).  So I researched some numbers. 
Here’s my shocking finding:
You are more likely to be murdered with a gun in the United States than to be murdered by any means in Somalia and Yemen.
Yes, that’s right.  Let me restate it:  Gun violence is more likely to be your cause of death here in the streets and homes of America than any form of homicide in either of these god-forsaken, war-torn, chaotic third-world countries (and I’m only talking about homicides here, not including accidental shootings, suicides, law enforcement, or defensive shootings).
Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?  The most recent year in which I could find data for all three countries was 2004 (the last year I could find for Somalia).
In Somalia in 2004 (from a World Bank study, from THIS link), there was a civilian homicide rate of 3.30 / 100K for ALL methods.
In Yemen in 2004, there was a civilian homicide rate of 2.85 / 100K for ALL methods.  (also found from the same World Bank study, from THIS link; the most recent year cited, 2008, had a rate of 4.00 / 100K).
In 2004, the United States had homicide rate of 3.97 / 100K for FIREARMS ALONE (according to CDC WISQARS data) (to compare with the most recent Yemen data, 2008 gun homicides in the U.S. also had a rate of 4.00 / 100K).
(For those interested in the rate for all forms of homicide in the U.S., in 2004 it was 5.88 / 100K, and in 2008 it was 5.86 / 100K.)
It’s important to note that these shooting rates also mirror the rates of gun ownership (again, data is from
Rate of private gun ownership out of 179 countries:  America is 1st.  Yemen is 10th.  Somalia is 58th.
Private guns in America:  88.8 / 100 people
Private guns in Yemen:  54.8 / 100 people
Private guns in Somalia:  9.1 / 100 people
Every American should stand up and pay attention.  We are quick to condemn nations like Somalia and Yemen for their wanton violence and lawlessness (and they should be condemned for it), and yet these numbers show that we are dying in higher numbers right here in our streets and homes, from gunfire or any other method.  The NRA’s answer is to flood the streets with as many guns as possible, and to flaunt those guns openly with open carry laws and rallies.  But gun ownership numbers show that we already have a far, far higher rate of gun ownership in the U.S.  By the NRA’s flawed logic, we should be the safest nation on Earth.  Instead, we are one of the deadliest. 
We, of course, should fight gun violence in any form and in any nation, but let’s concentrate on where it’s worst – right here at our own door -- and create a new trajectory for our community against gun violence.

Funny, but looking at the pics of Paskistani-Afghan gun culture and US, I was kinda surprised at similar they were.

Since I mention The Fifty Cent Army

I thought I would repost from my blog: 

George Monbiot, you swine…

You beat me to writing a piece on this topic and did it in a way that was really close to how I would have written the piece.

George and I are pretty much in agreement about most things, which is the reason I titled this the way I did since it is jest that I am describing him as a swine (and I’m a dog). I guess great minds think alike. And I concede  that  George is much more plugged in, but his post Reclaim the Cyber-Commons is pretty close to something I’ve had sitting around as a draft. But I have to tell him his tag line:
Tell people something they know already and they will thank you for it.
Tell them something new and they will hate you for it.
is a little off in this case.  I totally agree with him when he makes this point and would have started my post the same way:
The weapon used by both state and corporate players is a technique known as astroturfing. An astroturf campaign is one that mimics spontaneous grassroots mobilisations, but which has in reality been organised. Anyone writing a comment piece in Mandarin critical of the Chinese government, for example, is likely to be bombarded with abuse by people purporting to be ordinary citizens, upset by the slurs against their country.

But many of them aren’t upset: they are members of the 50 Cent Party, so-called because one Chinese government agency pays 5 mao (half a yuan) for every post its tame commenters write. Teams of these sock-puppets are hired by party leaders to drown out critical voices and derail intelligent debates.
George learned about online astroturfing in 2002, when the investigators Andy Rowell and Jonathan Matthews looked into a series of comments made by two people calling themselves Mary Murphy and Andura Smetacek. These two people had launched ferocious attacks, across several internet forums, against a scientist whose research suggested that Mexican corn had been widely contaminated by GM pollen. Rowell and Matthews found that one of the messages Mary Murphy had sent came from a domain owned by the Bivings Group, a PR company specialising in internet lobbying.

And anyone who blogs about unpopular topics such as Palestinian Rights or Gun Control knows, you will be inundated by comments challenging your beliefs. George points out that:
Reading comment threads on the Guardian’s sites and elsewhere on the web, two patterns jump out at me. The first is that discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain
I'm with him...but I'm watching what I say when we're at dinner parites
billions: such as climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance. These are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.

Articles about the environment are hit harder by such tactics than any others. I love debate, and I often wade into the threads beneath my columns. But it’s a depressing experience, as instead of contesting the issues I raise, many of those who disagree bombard me with infantile abuse, or just keep repeating a fiction, however often you discredit it. This ensures that an intelligent discussion is almost impossible – which appears to be the point.

The second pattern is the strong association between this tactic and a certain set of views: pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Both traditional conservatives and traditional progressives tend be more willing to discuss an issue than these right-wing libertarians, many of whom seek instead to shut down debate.

So what’s going on? I’m not suggesting that most of the people trying to derail these discussions are paid to do so, though I would be surprised if none were. I’m suggesting that some of the efforts to prevent intelligence from blooming seem to be organised, and that neither website hosts nor other commenters know how to respond.
I have to admit that if I had written my piece on Astroturf, I would have also borrowed from George where he talks about the people who aren’t paid, but who are willing to shill for the PR firms that  do the internet astroturfing by repeating their messages. They are the committed, although, I do wonder as to how many are truly concerned individuals since they rarely bother me after I started posting IP addresses! So, I am in agreement with you that the keyboard warriors who do post here are truly individual, but rare.

But, since you beat me to it, George, I’m going to borrow from you. Especially since you mention this:
For his film (Astro)Turf Wars, Taki Oldham secretly recorded a training session organised by a rightwing libertarian group called American Majority. The trainer, Austin James, was instructing Tea Party members on how to “manipulate the medium”. This is what he told them:

“Here’s what I do. I get on Amazon; I type in “Liberal Books”. I go through and I say “one star, one star, one star”. The flipside is you go to a conservative/ libertarian whatever, go to their products and give them five stars. … This is where your kids get information: Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster. These are places where you can rate movies. So when you type in “Movies on Healthcare”, I don’t want Michael Moore’s to come up, so I always give it bad ratings. I spend about 30 minutes a day, just click, click, click, click. … If there’s a place to comment, a place to rate, a place to share information, you have to do it. That’s how you control the online dialogue and give our ideas a fighting chance.”

Over 75% of the funding for American Majority, which hosted this training session, comes from the Sam Adams Alliance. In 2008, the year in which American Majority was founded, 88% of the alliance’s money came from a single donation, of $3.7m. A group which trains rightwing libertarians to distort online democratic processes, in other words, was set up with funding from a person or company with a very large wallet.
I wish that George would allow for comments since I want to give him a hand for putting out something that I will admit is a much better version than what I had written. More importantly, I think that what George has written needs to be published so that more people are aware of how debate is being stifled: especially since he neglect subjects where this practise is widespread (non-inclusive list of where I add the issues of  Palestinian rights, gun control to the ones George mentions).

George, this is the exception that proves the rule.  So, a grudging thank you for telling me something I knew already and saving me a lot of work in actually writing it by beating me to the punch here. I hope you don’t mind me passing it on with my own comments.

OK, George, I borrowed from you. I hope that you will borrow from my post The Centre for Alternative Technology is in financial straits. After all, they are in your neck of the woods.
I think you can get the proper audience for that message.

See also:

Fantasy Economies

since you aren't reading this stuff anyway,. I thought I would post this piece from the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (Fair) Blog

Extra! July 2012

Fantasy Economies

Enforcing neoliberalism through myth

By Steve Rendall

When reality fails to confirm the “truths” held by the international financial establishment, the corporate media can be relied on to concoct more cooperative scenarios.

In the real world, Argentina’s economy has been one of the most robust in the world for the past decade. But in the world of corporate journalism, Argentina is an economic rogue on the road to ruin. When its economy is discussed in U.S. corporate media, it’s largely to portray it as an example of national leaders making bad economic choices, a model of what not to do. This is what happened when Argentina recently bucked neoliberal nostrums and renationalized its major oil company, YPF, which had been acquired by the Spanish firm Repsol in a 1999 privatization.

In the New York Times (4/19/12), Latin American correspondent Simon Romero framed the “expropriation” in negative terms, larding his report with critics like the anonymous Latin American “financial experts” who

greeted [Argentine President Cristina Fernández de] Kirchner’s abrupt decision with dismay, saying the nationalization and other economic policies were making Argentina more of a hemispheric outlier than a leader in a bold new economic era.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón, whose own country’s oil industry is nationalized along similar lines as Argentina’s, was quoted saying the YPF nationalization “did no one any good.” Romero also quoted one Brazilian newspaper columnist who wrote that “Argentina’s capacity to err seems unlimited,” and another who referred to Kirchner as a “Crazy Queen.”

Support for Argentina’s move was briefly noted and ominously framed. Cheer-leaders included Venezuela—“where President Chávez has exerted control over dozens of companies, including huge oil projects”—and Uruguayan President José Mujica, “a former member of the Tupamaros guerrilla group.”

Perhaps the most telling comment in the lopsided account was Chilean Economic Minister Pablo Longueira’s claim that Argentina’s action made Latin America a “less trustworthy region.” Longueira was clear about whose trust matters: “Capital flows exit to those places where there is more investor confidence.”

There was the obligatory Washington Post editorial (4/19/12), headlined “Argen-tina’s President Rejects Stepping Into the Future,” which said Kirchner is “continuing to pursue the autocratic populism she practiced before the election.” As NACLA (5/2/12) noted ironically, Post editors find Kirchner autocratic because she “was reelected in an historic landslide, and had the temerity to continue the policies that gave her such strong approval in the first place.” In fact, YPF nationalization is even more popular than Kirchner in Argentina, garnering a 62 percent approval rating (MercoPress, 4/23/12).

Business Week (4/19/12) published a critical story about the nationalization and the recent trade restrictions Argentina has put in place to help bolster exports and protect its workers’ jobs. The piece claimed Kirchner was pursuing “ever more insular economic policies,” under the instructive headline: “Argentina Goes Rogue Again.”

Argentina has been
declared a economic rogue many times over, beginning in 2002 when it refused to continue under an IMF austerity regime and purposely defaulted on its debt. For its temerity, IMF official Anne Krueger reportedly dubbed Argentina “the ‘A’ word” (International Herald Tribune, 9/23/05).

Corporate media reporting on Argentina takes its cues from U.S. and global economic elites, whose remarks about Argentina’s economy are routinely critical.

In 2009, then–CIA director Leon Panetta enraged Argentine officials when he suggested that their economy might be unstable (BBC News, 2/27/09). The same year, CATO senior economist Daniel Mitchell attacked U.S. economic policy by equating it to “reckless” Argentina (Washington Times, 5/28/09): “The U.S. has become the Argentina of the industrialized world, with our reckless monetary policy and irresponsible fiscal policy.”

The U.S. should be so lucky.

Since defaulting on its debt in 2002 and extracting itself from an economic regime dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Argentina’s economy has grown more rapidly than any in the Western Hemisphere (Guardian, 10/23/11). While developing countries are expected to grow more rapidly than developed ones, the gap between Argentine growth since 2002 (a 7.4 percent per year average) is still impressive next to the U.S.’s almost flat 1.7 percent per annum growth rate (IMF World Economic Outlook Database, 4/12). (Some private estimates, such as those of Orlando J. Fererres & Asociados, put Argentina's average annual growth over this period at about 1 percentage point less than the government/IMF data.)

And while Argentina has its share of economic issues—a persistent problem with inflation, to name one—this year the IMF estimates the country’s unemployment rate will fall to 6.7 percent, its lowest point since 1992.

Last year, economics blogger Yves Smith (Naked Capitalism, 10/23/11) noted how Argentina gets little credit in the U.S. media: “Ever notice nothing is ever said in the mainstream media about Argentina’s economy, save that it had a big default?” She pointed out that the country’s economy had grown “nearly twice as fast” as Brazil’s—which is often cited as a positive model in U.S. media—while increasing social spending “from 10.3 percent of GDP to 14.2 percent of GDP,” and decreasing inequality: “Poverty and extreme poverty have fallen by roughly two-thirds.”

The lesson here is that how well you do by your people has little value next to how well you do by bankers. Never mind that its economy has outperformed its better-behaved neighbors; Argentina is a bad example because it flouts international financial interests.

By the same skewed reasoning that finds Argentina’s high-performing economy wanting, the U.S. corporate press presents Ireland’s stagnant economy as a positive model. “Madness in Spain Lingers as Ireland Chases Recovery,” was a Bloomberg headline (5/2/12) over a piece that quoted one European expert, “Ireland faced up to its problems faster than others and we expect growth there rather soon.”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed (10/10/11), “Lessons of the Irish Come-back,” U.S. bond trader Michael Hasenstab was even more explicit, touting Ireland’s severe austerity measures, including harsh cuts in jobs, wages and spending, along with sharp tax hikes, measures that supposedly made Ireland more competitive. The bond trader’s bullishness on the Irish economy earned him a glowing profile in the New York Times (2/8/12), headlined “A Contrarian Bets Ireland and Hungary Will Rebound”; the report explained that “Mr. Hasenstab has been an evangelist for Ireland’s stoic response to the crisis.”

NPR interviewed European editor of the Economist John Peet (4/30/12), who praised Ireland and recommended its austerity agenda:

And of the countries that were in trouble, I would say Ireland looks as if it’s the best at the moment, because Ireland has implemented very heavy austerity programs, but is now beginning to grow again. So there are some examples, but when you look at countries like France, Spain, Italy, there’s an awful long way to go.

Responding to a question about how austerity seems to be forcing some Euro nations into deeper recession, Peet told NPR’s Steve Inskeep:

Well, I think the professional economists, what they want to see is much faster implementation of reforms to the labor market, deregulation, liberalization of product markets across Europe, to make the European economies more competitive.

While acknowledging that some economies didn’t seem to react well to austerity, Peet failed to respond to Inskeep’s question: “I mean, you’re saying that hardly anyone seems to be proposing seriously another way out?”

Do “professional economists” really agree that austerity measures should be more rapidly implemented; that there are no real alternatives; and, most fundamentally, that Ireland’s economy is on the rebound as austerity boosters insist?

The answer on all three counts is no.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is one of many well-known economists who say treating recessed or demand-starved economies with austerity is counterproductive. Krugman is fond of quoting John Maynard Keynes, a giant in economic theory, who said, “The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.” Keynes said this just as FDR briefly embraced austerity and brought on the Recession of 1937.

Contrary to the shiny happy media accounts, Ireland is no model of the benefits of austerity. In his New York Times blog (4/30/12), Krugman responded to Peet’s claim that Ireland was “beginning to grow again” with a graph demonstrating an Irish economy still stuck in a prolonged slump.

Wrote Krugman: “To be fair, Peet isn’t alone. The legend of Irish recovery has somehow set in, and nobody on the pro-austerity side seems to feel any need to look at the data, even for a minute, to check whether the legend is true.”

The last quarter of 2011, according to the Irish Central Statistics Office (12/12/11), marked the largest quarterly fall in employment in two years, leaving Ireland with unemployment hovering above 14 percent.

The jobs picture is so dire that large numbers of young Irish workers are leaving the country to seek work abroad. According to the Guardian (3/8/12), unemployment has driven emigration to its highest level in two decades:

Young people, particularly men in their late teens and early 20s, are turning to other European countries, Australia and the Middle East for work. There are now 356,000 Irish nationals living in the UK, latest Office for National Statistics figures show, with the number of arrivals second only to Polish immigrants.

Argentina and Ireland are just the most recent examples of corporate media distorting the picture of various national economies to reinforce austerity and neoliberalism. There is no shortage of corporate media stories about how Greece, which is balking at the imposition of ever-harsher IMF/EU austerity measures, should follow the example of Latvia, which has begun to show growth after undergoing a harsh IMF/EU austerity regime (e.g., Wall Street Journal, 5/21/12).

In their quest to dissuade Greece from, say, taking the Argentine path and defaulting on its debt, corporate media usually obscure the fuller picture of Latvia, which has paid enormous economic and social costs for its alleged salvation. According to the Latvian census, from 2001 to 2011, the country’s population has receded from roughly 2.4 million to 2.1 million—losing one of every eight residents—according to the Latvian national statistics office (Baltic News Service, 1/18/12).

Despite recent growth, the country’s GDP is still more than 15 percent below its 2007 peak (Conscience of a Liberal, 3/26/12). And, after all this pain and dislocation, as academics Jeffrey Sommers, Arunas Juska and Michael Hudson point out (Naked Capitalism, 12/6/11), Latvia and its neighbor Lithuania remain in a deep financial hole, even as they are celebrated as models of success:

But one hears only celebratory praise from the neoliberal lobbyists whose policies have deindustrialized and stripped the Baltic economies of Lithuania and Latvia, leaving them debt-ridden and uncompetitive. It is as if their real estate collapse from bubble-level debt leveraging, that left their basic infrastructure in the hands of kleptocrats, is a free-market success story.

When corporate media report on other countries, the stories they tell have little to do with the actual functioning of their economies; they serve rather as morality tales that illustrate how those who follow neoliberal prescriptions are rewarded and those who deviate are punished. Reality conveys a quite different message.

See FAIR's Archives for more on:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hey, FWM--or is that 脂肪鬼佬 (Fat Gweilo)

I wanted to find a Chinese Communist posters for 脂肪鬼佬 (Fat Gweilo) who may be finding most of the economic development money for his home county is coming from the PRC...

Comrades, soon this county will be a haven for fat gweilo members of the fifty cent Army (sure, it's an album cover from Matching Mole, but what the heck?).

"Political power comes from the barrel of a gun"-Mao Tse-Tung
"It's an idividual right"--Gun loons

"Who cares what political system we have, as long as they let us keep our guns"

"Didya hear the one about the Farmer's daughter?"
Maybe if we'd study we'd raise our grades...
But we're still better educated than the average septic.

Hey, Comrade, what are you doing Saturday night?

With the US fast becoming a third rate power thanks to idiotic politicans, the US may soon be a colony of the PRC.

And Fat Gweilo's county is in the vanguard.

More on mexican Drug Guns

Funny how they gun crowd wants to say they either don't exist, or are Obama's fault...

from InSight - Organized Crime in the Americas

InSight Crime Analysis

The case is an example of a method commonly used by Mexican drug gangs to get weapons, commissioning “straw buyers,” who usually have clean criminal records, to circumvent laws that prevent foreigners from buying guns in the US. Once legally purchased, the guns are smuggled into Mexico. Indeed, last year a high-ranking member of the Zetas told the authorities that all of the group's guns were bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico across the Rio Grande.

Despite some attempts by the Obama administration to stem the flow of weapons across the border, there is little political will for real reform to US gun control legislation. The furor over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) botched “Fast and Furious” operation, which critics say allowed guns to “walk” across the border in the hopes of building cases against more high-ranking criminals in Mexico, has made gun control reform an even more heated issue.
Contralinea magazine detailed the routes by which guns are trafficked into Mexico, including the flow of arms from the U.S. directly to Guatemala, and then over Mexico's southern border in a piece from November 2011.

For two decades, [Mexico's] southern border has been a port of entry for the weapons that feed the country's black market. There are 956 miles of border between Mexico and Guatemala, where it is enough to arrive to cities like Ciudad Hidalgo, Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, or in border towns like Corozal, Talisman or Carmen Xhan, cross the checkpoints and walk around Tecun Uman, La Mesilla, Peten, El Carmen and Gracias a Dios to be offered weapons. Salesmen in shacks, adobe huts, or in the middle of the street offer the old M-16s and Galils that the Central American civil wars left behind; or more modern weapons, like the M72 and AT4 (anti-tank rockets), RPG-7 rocket-launchers, or 37-millimeter MGL grenade-launchers, with tracers and armor-piercing capacity, sold by catalogue, and a one-week wait before delivery.

The weapons arrive mostly from the United States, through air or maritime routes to Guatemala for distribution in Mexico, Central America, or South America. The advantage that this market offers is that purchases can be made without any middlemen, and that crossing is much easier than on the northern border.

Weapons acquired in Guatemala to supply the black market in Mexico are transported using the “hormiga” method, among the belongings of those who cross the border between the two countries -- identified as one of the most porous in the world. Or, if they are large shipments, they are transported along the Suchiate River, or in secret compartments in vehicles that cross the border, or in collusion with immigration and customs officials.

 So, what is it?  Are US guns feeding the Mexican Drug cartels,. or is it rubbish? 

It sounds more like lax US firearms laws are feeding the drug cartels to me and the NRA is pointing out its policies of fighting any reasonable regulation is the cause.

Obama Derangement Syndrome

I just became aware of this. One of the characterisitcs is an inability to distinguish Hawaii from Kenya--not that septics were any good at geography and how that might impact them anyway...

Kevin drum from Mother Jones points out that one of the key things that's long convinced me that Obama Derangement Syndrome is way stronger than Bush Derangement Syndrome ever was is the disparate treatment of their wives. I occasionally saw some snotty comments about Laura Bush in various precincts of the blogosphere and the partisan media, but nothing either serious or sustained. But Michelle Obama? Holy cow. There are times when you'd think she was the antichrist. The poor woman decides to make childhood obesity one of her focuses — about as First-Ladyish a subject as you can possibly imagine — and gets hammered by the wingnut brigade for supposedly being the vanguard of Stalinesque Big Government rules decreeing exactly what all of us will and won't be allowed to eat in the future. And that's just for promoting the idea of better nutrition and more exercise for kids!

Simon Maloy has more, treating us today to a dissection of a new column from Joe Curl that's headlined — in unwitting Dr. Seuss style — "The very angry first lady Michelle Obama." The First Lady, says Curl, is back, "and she's madder than ever," "ready to spew her bilious disgust with America on the campaign trail," blah blah blah.

I mean, it's comical in a way, but weirdly revealing in another. The level of blind, lick-spittled rage it takes to produce this stuff is pretty remarkable. And presumably there's a ready audience for it. You could almost understand where this came from in the case of Hillary Clinton: a feminist child of the counterculture who was deeply involved in policy creation was always bound to get under the skin of a certain type of social conservative. But Michelle Obama? Sure, she's a liberal and she supports her husband's initiatives, but her own work has centered on military families, childhood obesity, national service, arts education, and cultivating her organic garden. How traditional do you have to be to get the right-wing crazies to calm down?

Hunting with Hounds

I did some posts a while back about hunting where I mentioned hunting boar with hounds and a boar spear. Someone made a comment about wanting to see me do this believing that I wouldn't be willing to give it a go.

Far from it, I would love to try it, but the problem is that the hunter isn't the first to encounter game when one hunts with dogs--it's usually the dogs who will encounter the prey first.

Upon finding a pig, a dog pack will chase the animal until he or she is exhausted. Hunters follow on foot, horseback, or in swamp buggies (that's usually in the USA).
" . . . a wild scene. Leif and Tucker [dogs], who have raced past Cock [hunter] just before he reached the bay, are latched onto the pig’s ears. The other dogs bard and dart in to bite the pig’s flank. The pig squeals with a pitch and volume that would make the whine of a table saw seem like a low hum. Cock grabs its back legs, throws it down, puts a knee on its shoulder and begins stabbing. After four or five tries, he pierces the heart. The blood flows, the squealing stops and the admiration of the carcass begins.”
– description of a hunt, St. Petersburg Times, June 4, 1999
Before the dogs are restrained, the pig can suffer horrible injuries. Occasionally, a wounded pig will escape, only to later die a lingering death.

Of course, dogs enjoy the hell out of this, especially if they are hunting breeds as the picture of the dogs with historic hunting reenactor Richard Swinney show. Anyone who knows dog expressions can tell the dog with Swinney is pleased as hell, and the dog in the background wants another boar! Hunting is a natural activity for dogs and hunting with them bonds one to the pack.

Naturally, the animal rights crowd find this to be repugnant and hunting boar with dogs is illegal in some jurisdictions: this includes where I live. I believe that the nearest place for me to do this is in Germany and I would have to join a club.

And yes, I do go hunting with dogs and have experience in these matters.

Funeral March of a Sock Puppet

Actually, it's Charles Gounod's Funeral March of a Marionette, but since the sock puppets seem to be fleeing....

I decalre this a sock puppet free zone!

The writing on the wall at the end of your nose

Cross posted from my blog.

Exhibits 1 through R.

The above are the tip of a rather large iceberg and, like most icebergs it goes largely unnoticed or unremarked upon by the public at large.

What those links above show is that in Indiana it is apparently less of a problem for parents "accidentally" shooting their children* than it is for parents who leave their children in a child/infant car seat with the windows rolled up and the A/C turned off. I would not be surprised to read an account of a child being shot by an adult who was then arrested for DUI when they got pulled over for attempting to drunkenly drive their--not on purpose, unforseebly, accidentally shot--child or someone else's child to a facility for medical treatment and subsequently charged with the DUI and not the shooting itself. Of course when the gunzloonz can either scare the lege into doing their bidding or simply elect enough of their ilk to tip the balance they also will have the unassailable argument that nothing illegal happened. That slavery used to be legal, along with sweatshops, unsafe workspaces, child labor and the like is lost on them.

WTF, no, really WHAT THE FUCK? Some gunzloonz will, I'm sure, be able to explain why it is NOT a case of criminal neglect to leave a gun where it can be picked up and fired by a child/minor--where that firing results in the death or injury of someone else--while leaving a baby in a car or having a shitsmeared home or one patrolled by starving pitbulls wherein a child dies or is maimed IS a felony.

Now, I'll grant that part of the problem with the whole kid-left-in-the-saunaonwheels thing is the nosy bastards that just feel like they GOTTA call the PIGS, man! Well, GODbless the home, one that is his heavily and heavenly fortified KKKastle, of the idiots whose loved ones get whacked or blasted by their own fucking guns--they don't gotta let nobody come in and find out whether their house is SAFE for teh babeez.

Of course there is another problem that the gunzloonz share with the AGW deniers, biblical inerranists, KKKristian KKKonstitutionalists and other whackjob GOPers--they cannot read the truth. They view facts with the same horror as the old fashioned vampires viewed garlic, wolfbane and crucifixes**. I can say, with a fair degree of certainty that no true Son-O-Teh-Gunz will trouble his beautifully empty mind to read and reflect on any, never mind all, of the links I provided. Prove me wrong, bulletboyz, prove me wrong. I mean, I can believe that you will accept the challenge just as I can believe that the cast of "True Blood" ARE vampires.

* And, in some cases, other people's children.

** Today's vampires seem to be somewhat immune to those things. They now fear fashion ineptitude, lack of sardonic cool and being "out" with the "in the ground" crowd. Otoh; sunlight, the universal disinfectant, seems to be as scary now as it was then