"I think they are all homosexual communists in Satan's army...I espect as well they all live together and bathe together every morning and have the anal sex with one another, with the fisting and the guinea pigs." - Manuel Estimulo
"You two [the Rev and el Comandante] make an erudite pair. I guess it beats thinking." - Matt Cunningham (aka Jubal) of OC Blog
"Can someone please explain to me what the point is behind that roving gang of douchebags? I’m being serious here. It’s not funny, and doesn’t really make anything that qualifies as logical argument. Paint huffers? Drunken high school chess geeks?" - rickinstl
The first thing I heard about Ferguson, Missouri was a tweet from my buddy and occasional c0-conspirator Eric Garland, alerting me to an atrocity in suburbia. Said the kid was a neighbor of his, and that obviously he'd been robbed of equal protection under the law. While generally aware that everything there was going to hell, when I sat mesmerized, stunned by the coverage. Eric had asked me what I thought about this disaster, and this was my response.
What exactly is the state song for Missouri? After this snake rodeo goat f**k snake rodeo of a mess, it should be Sympathy for the Devil...something about every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints.
OK, I watched quite a bit on what's going on in Ferguson. Simple analysis is --The police and the authorities are out on Desolation Row "off sniffing drainpipes while reciting the alphabet." (Hey, first song I wanted to learn to play was Like a Rolling Stone, HW 61 Revisited is implanted in my DNA) They're doing everything wrong. Everything. More people are going to get killed.
OK, there is a difference between riot control and combat. Big difference. In combat, you close with and destroy the enemy through fires, maneuver and close combat. In riot control, you ideally just want the people to go away and calm down. You do everything you can to not turn things into pitched battles, create grievances or escalate. Now, what I'm seeing in Ferguson as I watched the video is the use of overwhelming combat power -- relatively speaking -- against a really soft and inappropriate target.
The classic maneuver, since Hannibal at Cannae has been the double envelopment, where you lure the enemy forward, surround them, and destroy them in detail. The Schliffen plan was based on that concept. Alternatively, you can do other things, the dumbest of which is to stand off and just lob ordnance at the enemy. But, in Riot Control situations, you want the bad people to run away. In order to that you show force and then get them to run and you make it easy for them to run. This isn't the enemy, especially in this case. Who the hell is calling the shots for these morons, Dick Cheney and Tommy Franks? They better hope Jeffersonian democracy doesn't break out in Ferguson and St Louis County, because all those clowns will be out of a job and headed to jail.
The use of rubber bullets is interesting, as are the use of both tear gas and stun grenades. One of the reporters interviewed on MSNBC by Lawrence O'Donnell had been shooting live video and then started running while continuing to shoot because he was being hit in the back by rubber bullets and possibly gas canisters. Kudoes to the people working this, by the way. They aren't war correspondents, but this is pretty freaking close. Rubber bullets are not the best non-lethal munition available, and stun grenades work in indoor situations. Outside, the flash/bang is not contained by the structure. Rubber bullets can be pretty dangerous. Especially to children, and it looks like they took this fight into a local neighborhood.
The overuse of CS2 or CS3 or whatever tear agent they're using. The big problem with using chemical weapons in vapor or aerosol form is that you can't control where it goes. You put it on target, but it will linger, go straight up in the air or just blow away depending on the wind. How long it will linger depends on the temperature situation; well, my guess is that it was relatively calm winds, with high humidity and high temperatures. The conditions would be favorable for the stuff to hang around and slowly dissipate, mainly as the aerosol in this case filters out of the air. (Tear agents are generally aerosols of a solid form, think spray glitter only smaller). So, there's a residual hazard.
(CS story, one of many I have. I used to train and teach using the crap. One time, I got it all over my boots. Brushed them off, deconned them lightly but didn't care. Wife decided to help me get ready by polishing my boots for me. Did not end well for me. She never did my boots again.)
While compared to nerve agent or white phosphorus, RC agents are pretty mild, we're not talking about a combat zone. We're talking about suburban streets in the middle of the United States. In those circumstances, the stuff is a nightmare and everytime it gets stirred up in the neighborhood, bad things will happen. People with respiratory problems, old people, young people, pets and other small animals like birds and squirrels have some risks.) Since the crap is powder, it will get in peoples' eyes and they'll rub their eyes. This can scratch the cornea and screw up the retina. Food and water contaminated can't be consumed safely unless you're a freaking honey badger.
As I look at the lines of cops standing around looking like idiots, I thought of the Colin Powell doctrine, which I still remember him articulating on national TV for the first time. You don't use American troops and resources unless you have overwhelming force, a set of clear goals, an exit plan and some level of buy-in from the people. It would suck to be one of these cops in a nearby small town or in Ferguson and have friends or family watching this display. Or have a beat in a black or Latino neighborhood. Now, I'm a fan of that doctrine and believe that ignoring it was one of the endless chain of Bush's mistakes. Technology per se don't make up elements of combat power, it can enhance it. But all the high tech gizmos and flashbangy thingees don't help if you can't bring them to bear on the target, use them properly on the right target or even figure out the target.
But, this isn't a damned invasion of enemy territory. It's not even a "Police Action..." It's crowd control following a tragic use of deadly force. Have those fools on standby; put out checkpoints and patrols with guidance to be freaking polite and friendly and helpful Cigarettes, candy, and such crap should be distributed. Since the atmosphere is so poisonous and not from the CS, this is a case of hearts and minds as much as anything. Unless they want to keep doing this...everytime something happens between the majority of the local population and the overwhelming majority of the police force. (Wanna bet the three cops that are Black on the Ferguson police force have their resumes out..."
Speaking of cops, arrest the goddamned cop. Hold him as a material witness somewhere else if they are honestly concerned about his safety. A Holiday Inn in Rolla for example. (Stayed in one 34 years ago moving to Arizona from Germany. It was nice.) Couple of guards per shift, and so on. Announce that he's under arrest and being held elsewhere for both his and the cities best interests. Oh, move the family too, if they're local residents.
The police chief keeps stomping on his dick with cleats. He whines that he doesn't want to be part of the problem, and then he handles the crowds at night in a half-assed manner, violates the constitution repeatedly, lets his idiots on the force target journalists and on and on and on. The mayor is as bad. Where the hell is the governor? Where the hell are the Senators? The congress-ctitters -- what the hell? You're a Republican trying not to look like you're one of the stupid party (although that's hopeless, i.e., Todd Akin -- at least in Missouri...), so go out talking to local people about how awful this is and how we need to find better ways. You're a Democrat and you want to get the vote out -- do the same thing. There's hay to be made here, all you political parasites! Is this crisis conflicting with their vacations? Back to school shopping?
(Note: To be fair, Governor Nixon held his first press conference on the problems and outlined a number of changes in the way things are being done that probably should have been implemented several days ago shortly after 3PM EST. Just prior to this, Al Sharpton was on Alex Wagner's show on MSNBC and he pointed out that the President had made his first statement about the case on the weekend, and had beaten the governor again after yesterday's debacle. I watched the conference on MSNBC, and the two guys who made sense were the Captain from the State Police who is now in charge of "Security" in Ferguson and the Mayor of St Louis, who for the first time didn't say that Michael Brown, the victim, had been fatally shot, not "had lost his life." To be honest, the rest of it was word salad, platitudes, and "we're looking forward, not backwards...")
Police started to riot -- because that's what happened -- because someone threw something at them. Seriously, what does that even mean?A rock, a bottle, a Molotov cocktail, a paper airplane? You take a bunch of people, get them hyped up for hours, and then turn them lose with no real restraints. You give people a lot of fun toys -- MRAPs designed for Iraq, M4 Rifles, Rubber Bullets, Stun Grenandes and Tear Gas -- and they'll look for a way to use them. What did the leaders expect to happen?
Quoting our mutual 500 pound Samoan attorney, I strongly recommend you try and get your wife to buy into moving someplace civilized like, oh, Falls Road in Belfast.
Convergence of Liberal, Moderate and Conservative Writers Agreeing on Iraq
Universe Coming to an End!
Mike Farrell, Veterans Today Columnist, Futurist and Socratic ProvocateurI haven't been writing a lot lately, largely because events in areas that I'm interested in are moving so fast that any comment by me would be overtaken by events almost before I could complete a sentence. A great case in point is the situation in Iraq. At some point, people will stop, look at each other and say, "Joe Biden was right!" about the loose federation concept. Same approach might work for Afghanistan since that place is made up of groups of people who really hate each other; geographic divisions might at least let them cluster into bombs of intolerance and rage which could be turned inward. It's a thought.
But, when I initially saw the excerpts from Pope Francis' interview with a Spanish magazine and then tracked down the complete text, I figured that it along with several other articles, should be tossed into the intellectual cauldron at Veterans Today and anyplace else that will have me.
What I'm seeing is a weird convergence of thought on the role of America in the 21st Century and the role of thought. There were some great columns in the weekend's NY Times and then the inimitable Ana Marie Cox had a marvelous insight over at The Guardian. When Friedman, Douthat, Kristoff, Cox and the Pope are all basically saying the same thing, maybe we ought to listen. Now, to steal a phrase from Molly Ivins, it's probably too much to hope that the Congress-critters obsessed with a misunderstood version of machismo and "American Exceptionalism" can drag their heads away from looking at their own prostates, but as citizens perhaps we should.
Pope Francis first: In many ways, he is really the most interesting man in the world as opposed to a guy from Queens who sometimes drinks Dos Equis. Bit by bit, he's chiseling away at the accrued bat guano of greed, insanity, power and privilege stretching back to the Milvian Bridge and Constantine's vision. Helluva challenge; since I don't believe in God, I can't see him succeeding ultimately but as one of his predecessors as prince of Rome, Marcus Aurelius wrote, "Any improvement, no matter how small,is no mean accomplishment." Besides, how can you not find interesting someone who in his position can say something like this, when asked about his legacy..."I have not thought about it, but I like it when someone remembers someone and says: “He was a good guy, he did what he could. He wasn’t so bad.” I’m OK with that." I have trouble imagining recent popes saying anything like that or using common language, or, for that matter, having the interview in the first place. Popes are diplomatic, slow and deliberate; Francis is gentle, quick thinking and open.
The interview is worth reading but his comment on fundamentalism is critical, and extends further than he perhaps consciously intended. Responding to the interviewer on the issue of faith-based violence in the world and the nature of fundamentalism in the world, he said this, which should be required posting on all political, religious, economic and social magazine mastheads. Not, of course, that anyone pays attention to the masthead anymore...
Violence in the name of God dominates the Middle East. It's a contradiction. Violence in the name of God does not correspond with our time. It's something ancient. With historical perspective, one has to say that Christians, at times, have practiced it. When I think of the Thirty Years War, there was violence in the name of God. Today it is unimaginable, right? We arrive, sometimes, by way of religion to very serious, very grave contradictions. Fundamentalism, for example. The three religions, we have our fundamentalist groups, small in relation to all the rest. And, what do you think about fundamentalism? A fundamentalist group, although it may not kill anyone, although it may not strike anyone, is violent. The mental structure of fundamentalists is violence in the name of God.
Now, I think it's worth noting that Christians continue to practice fundamentalism in various places and times. But, the nature of fundamentalism is the idea of absolute adherence to established doctrine, and the elimination of any dissent from that doctrine. The nature of violence is such that it can be intrinsic as well as extrinsic, psychological as well as physical, social as well as military. My old friend Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and Executive Director of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) has written repeatedly of the intrinsic, economic and psychological violence directed against women and the LGBT communities in the Catholic Church specifically.
However, we see fundamentalism at work in the Republican Party, where the Tea Party has its own thought police run by Glenn, Rush, Laura and Annie, Sean and Bill. When politicians talk about litmus tests for the Supreme Court or for nominations for office, they are reacting to a form of fundamentalism. The idea that there are multiple sides to issues simply doesn't compute with these folks.
Of course, what we see in Iraq today is a conflict over a different view of fundamentalism. The Sunni fundamentalism of ISIS and al Quaida is matched by Shiite fundamentalism of Maliki and Iran. Now, this is in many ways the old Churchill dilemma of putting nations where what we're really dealing with are tribes with flags, or tribes forced into flags. Interestingly, the religious argument between them has it's roots not in the Holy Koran but rather in the succession of the Caliphs in the 7th Century. Everything else springs from that -- clerics, politicians and people in general feel fine with slaughtering each other over what in fact is a conflict over the drawing of an org chart but doing so in the name of God.
Now, Christianity has had it's share of these orgies of blood, hate, bile, and self-satisfaction. But, over centuries the perpetrators of such insanity on the violence side have been marginalized. However, what religion has done in Iraq is cover for tribalism. The middle east is really a number of ethnic groups largely captured by a single religion with multiple warring denominations and agendas that are fine-tuned with regional, ethnic, and socio-historic divisions. The US has responded to it as if it's a collaborative of rational actors, in sort of a geo-political application of the idea of rational markets. So, not only are we using the wrong mental model to look at the area, we're using a mental model that doesn't work. What could possibly go wrong with that sort of intellectual foundation? Besides everything?
It's rare that I can read Tom Friedman without having my eyeballs bleed. However, in his column on Sunday, Friedman was perceptive, reasonable and direct; we have no dog in the Iraq fight except the dog we've largely ignored. He writes:
... in Iraq today, my enemy’s enemy is my enemy. Other than the Kurds, we have no friends in this fight. Neither Sunni nor Shiite leaders spearheading the war in Iraq today share our values.
The Sunni jihadists, Baathists and tribal militiamen who have led the takeover of Mosul from the Iraqi government are not supporters of a democratic, pluralistic Iraq, the only Iraq we have any interest in abetting. And Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has proved himself not to be a friend of a democratic, pluralistic Iraq either. From Day 1, he has used his office to install Shiites in key security posts, drive out Sunni politicians and generals and direct money to Shiite communities. In a word, Maliki has been a total jerk. Besides being prime minister, he made himself acting minister of defense, minister of the interior and national security adviser, and his cronies also control the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry. Maliki had a choice — to rule in a sectarian way or in an inclusive way — and he chose sectarianism. We owe him nothing.
He goes on to discuss the two places that are in fact working well in the region: the Kurdish region in Iraq and Tunisia, pointing out that we've pretty much left these areas to their own devices while we've been being "geo-political" somewhere else. They have functioning, somewhat inclusive and effective governments, and the people aren't trying to kill each other. They reflect in so much as any Islamic nation can those values of Jeffersonian Democracy that we had planned to impose on the region by forcing them on Iraq and then having a "thousand blossoms bloom." From this, Friedman comes to an interesting revelation: it's not about the US or the West or Russia and the Geo-Political stuff we love so much. It's about the people of the region. As he says, "Arabs and Kurds have efficacy too..."
This leads him to another major insight:
The Middle East only puts a smile on your face when it starts with them — when they take ownership of reconciliation. Please spare me another dose of: It is all about whom we train and arm. Sunnis and Shiites don’t need guns from us. They need the truth. It is the early 21st century, and too many of them are still fighting over who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad from the 7th century. It has to stop — for them, and for their kids, to have any future.
Friedman then wonders about Iran, and comes to the conclusion that the Iranians who plotted with Maliki to get us out so they could "help" weren't quite so smart. They're looking at a long, involved period of support in a nasty, sectarian civil war with the inherent explicit and implicit costs as opposed to having US and NATO propping up their henchmen in Baghdad. Interesting issue, and one that I find very ironic. I envision the US and some other nations providing logistical, intelligence and related support to a largely Iranian "Peace Keeping" force for a long time. If we're smart, we'll get Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai to pay for it along with the Iranians; that's probably a bit to Jesuitical for the State Department and Congress, but it makes a lot of sense.
Friedman finishes on a very high level of perception, especially for him. He surveys the situation, and asks a couple of very telling questions and gives a somewhat unexpected answer for someone usually so conflicted about Iraq and the Islamic world.
Finally, while none of the main actors in Iraq, other than Kurds, are fighting for our values, is anyone there even fighting for our interests: a minimally stable Iraq that doesn’t threaten us? And whom we can realistically help? The answers still aren’t clear to me, and, until they are, I’d be very wary about intervening.
I think that Friedman has the root of a new US doctrine of global involvement; if you're not fighting for something that fits in our values or in our true strategic interests we shouldn't consider getting involved. And, if we can't figure out a good way to help effectively, we shouldn't get involved either. I'm a retired soldier and an activist by nature, but after 63 years I've finally learned that there's no need to save the bad guys from destroying themselves by uniting everyone against US! Be nice if we all learned that...sometimes we're the windshield, but we can always make like the bug if we're not careful.
Peters was accused by some of flacking for the Pentagon, which given Peters relationship with the Defense establishment is kind of funny, that he had drawn the map the way the US wanted it redrawn. Actually, as Douthat points out, Peters felt and still feels that US policy makers have a vested interest in keeping the old Franco-British lines in effect, and he thinks that's stupid. Douthat agrees, and has a clear, concise and effective argument as to why but shows the rational side of letting the status quo stands.
While the USA values diversity and inclusion, the facts don't belie that. In Europe, the tendency has been toward exclusive states; states that are more cosmopolitan in their makeup -- Yugoslavia, the Austria-Hungary Empire, the Ottoman Empire -- have largely failed and been split. More coherence has allowed for more national identity and success and what we observe in Europe is the result of several generations of Ethnic Cleansing and two World Wars. While it might make sense to redraw the map in western Asia and North Africa, Douthat points out that process is not going to be peaceful and believes it's underway now. Are we ready for generations of bloodshed and chaos to get there? In the long run, perhaps we should be, but it's always worth remembering that in the long run, we're all dead. Douthat writes:
This was true even of the most ambitious (and foolhardy) architects of the Iraq invasion, who intended to upset a dictator-dominated status quo ... but not, they mostly thought, in a way that would redraw national boundaries. Instead, the emphasis was on Iraq’s potential for post-Saddam cohesion, its prospects as a multiethnic model for democratization and development. That emphasis endured through the darkest days of our occupation, when the voices calling for partition — including the current vice president, Joe Biden — were passed over and unity remained America’s strategic goal.
This means that Iraq is now part of an arc, extending from Hezbollah’s fiefdom in Lebanon through war-torn Syria, in which official national borders are notional at best. And while full dissolution is not yet upon us, the facts on the ground in Iraq look more and more like Peters’s map than the country that so many Americans died to stabilize and secure...Our basic interests have not altered: better stability now....But two successive administrations have compromised those interests: one through recklessness, the other through neglect. Now the map is changing; now, as in early-20th-century Europe, the price of transformation is being paid in blood.
Douthat is one of the more conservative writers on the Times OP-ED and he takes the opportunity there to take a slap at the Obama administration. Since I have a different lens and see this as the fruits of an absurd policy to begin with, I think his analysis is dead wrong. You deal with reality as it is, not as you wish it could be and demanding doesn't make it so. The US may have wooed the Sunni warlords during the Surge but in reality, we were all in on the Shiites, and they wanted us out. And so we left and here we are. Ana Marie Cox seems to think that was not only inevitable but a good idea.
Cox is an interesting writer. She started the satirical blog Wonkette, worked for Time starting their Swampland Blog while covering the McCain Palin campaign; she left Time and worked briefly for Air America before that enterprise cratered; wrote a blog and column for Gentleman's Quarterly and since 2011 has been a correspondent, blogger and columnist for The Guardian. My theory is that she no longer appears on the Rachel Maddow show because of the famous "tea bagger" incident where she reduced Maddow to blushing giggles and tears. She still appears on the rest of MSNBC.
Cox has the same yearning for clear choices and a certain trumpet that many on the right argue for but, she points out very lucidly, we really need to be careful in what we wish for. Iraq is a mess, largely of our own making and we need to step carefully, not ape Uncle Teddy in Arsenic and Old Lace, charging down the stairs to bury more laborers on the Panama Canal in the basement. Rather, she asks us to remember how we got into that mess in the first place.
But let's remember the way we got in too deep: it wasn't by underestimating the threat Iraq posed to US interests, it was byoverestimating it. "Overestimating" may even be too generous. We created a threat when there was none, not out of whole cloth so much as a web of pride, avarice and insecurity. Obama's haters on the right – and maybe even some formerly hawkish apologists on the left – need a refresher course on just how much of the Iraq invasion hinged on ego and imagined taunts.... That the Bush administration misled the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq is now all but common knowledge; what we talk about less is why Americans were moved so easily from concern about possible attacks from overseas into almost pornographic nationalism. Clearly, we were intoxicated by some heady perfume of testosterone and saddle leather that pulled along George W Bush by the nose. When the Iraq war began, nearly 80% of Americans thought it was a good idea.Almost as many approved of how the president was handling it. Irrational exuberance is not just for markets. How we have sobered since then!
Cox points out that governments are not people, and that the mechanisms of government are supposed to grind slowly, not jump on the first impulsive concept that comes to mind. She believes that Republicans think that Americans want smaller government, by which they understand governments that act like people. Fortunately, that isn't possible. T
he more we expect government to produce magic beans capable of solving some immediate problem, the less capable the government ultimately is to respond to the next one. Using the economic analogy again, if the rational actor in the marketplace is your drunken uncle Bernie or schizo cousin Pearl, you can't trust the market to make rational decisions. Thus in government -- the idea that, as some Republicans claim, the administration considers all options and chooses none strikes her as superior to the alternative -- grabbing the first option that fits you underlying desires whether or not it's going to be effective and going all in on it.
Cox sees an almost metaphysical transformation in the American electorate. After Bush, as a group we no longer see the President as the personification of the state. Part of that is probably due to the difference in attitude, intellect, personality and race between this President and most of his predecessors. A large part of it is due to the results of the Iraq invasion; as a people, we're sick of conflict with no end, no logic, no goals and no plausible outcome. Leaving Iraq was inevitable and Maliki screwed himself because he made out exit so abrupt and complete; Afghanistan will probably be slower but still, inevitable. The Islamic world will figure it out or not. As Cox says with much the same insight as Friedman and Douthat, and the Pope, "It is most certainly a function of having seen so many lives lost, but the American people are comfortable with inaction. Barack Obama's foreign policy is less of a doctrine than a stance – guarded but cautious, careful but alert ... just like us."
The problem with irony is that not everybody gets it. -- Ray Wylie Hubbard
John Oliver is a British expatriate doing satire in the United States. He'd been interesting on The Daily Show before subbing for John Stewart, and now he's got his own gig on Sunday nights for HBO. I realize that some of our readers will read "Jon Stewart" and "British Expat!" and rush to a default position blaming Zionists and the House of Windsor for everything. Don't do that, at least for a moment.
You see, Oliver has exposed a great truth of 21st Century existence -- if you want to announce something evil, make the announcement in the midst of something incredibly boring...and then discuss it only in talking points and make use of absolute bullshit in most of the talking points. Like it or not, musicians, poets, fiction writers, historians, satirists and some academics are the only ones in public life actually saying things that we should hear. And, because you might" not be able to dance to it", or "who wants to read some poetry" or "I'll wait for the TV shows"or" the books are too long or too complicated" we just read the commentary if that. Which is largely made up of talking points based on lies and absolute bullshit. One of my friends, economic analyst and musician Eric Garland tweeted recently that after reviewing Piketty and some of the complaints against him, he no longer believed that the complainers had read Capital in the 21st Century. I asked him if he had only recently learned that there was no Santa. Sshocked to hear that I didn't believe in Santa anymore.,Eric was concerned that I won't believe in the confidence fairy either. (I don't.)
So, if you don't like Healthcare and loathe Barrack Obama, don't complain about the affordable care act on its merits, but rail about the need to vote to repeal the "Job-Killing, Economy-Busting-Medicare-Killing Death Panel Obamacare Bill" which is a nice way of saying absolutely nothing. If you were to go into the Congressional Record and review the legislation introduced since 2010 in the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act, you'd find lots of such titles. Silly but that's what they've been doing; this is Karl Rove/Lee Atwater crap played out legislatively -- attack the other guy's strengths by denying them, and troll them downwards. It may or may not work in the short run, but if you're basically a spiritual ORC, it works well at degrading the public debate and making our civil society something more akin to the French Assembly of 1793 than Hamilton, Jay and Madison's vision of how a Democratic Republic is supposed to work.
The issue that got Oliver wound up as shown in the video above is Net Neutrality. As is typical with changes to Federal Rules and Regulations, the briefings are incomprehensible and full of jargon, acronyms and legalese. It's boring, violates all the rules of rhetoric, and makes about as much sense to most of us as four or five pages of organic chemistry. However, in this case it's fairly simple -- Net Neutrality requires that internet access by providers be equal. You put your stuff online, and it goes out at whatever speed your modem and network can handle and it gets downloaded and read at whatever speed your customers, readers or the NSA is currently handling. The current effort to change the rules is pretty simple -- you allow the providers of internet services to charge extra for premium speeds.
The big online providers contend that this will make the people paying for that additional speed get a faster connection to the consumer, but will not put those buying the basic distribution system at any disadvantage. To ensure this, we have the FCC which is now run by the guy who used to be head lobbyist for the CABLE and WIRELESS industries, and of course, we all know that we can trust lobbyists. And, the cable companies and internet providers...which already exist with monopoly basis and use all sorts of bizarre tricks to maximize profits while shafting consumers. We all have our horror stories about how lousy these firms are, and now we're going to trust them to do the right thing by us all. How bad could it be? (Very...extremely...totally!) What could go wrong? (Everything...)
Yeah -- problem is that in their Ayn Rand-derived world view, screwing us is not only their right but their civic duty. In the vulture capital world of cable-broadband-Wall Street-and big time politics, there should be no consumer protections, no truth in advertising protections, no guardians for the guardians guarding the rights and well-being of the people. The FCC does have a couple of problems though --it has to convince Congress and it has to get through the public rule review and commentary period. Frankly, this is a chance for those of us who complain about the failure of democracy to at least twist a few tails here. Oliver's piece reveals the address where you can email you comments on net neutrality. He has fun with that, addressing internet trolls and encouraging them to step up to the plate and tell this bunch of politicians, bureaucrats, thieves and whores that you're not happy about this. You will hold the agency and the elected officials responsible for this attempt to stifle competition and reduce freedom of expression through the use of money to deny access to free speech.
Now, the Cable-Broadband industry are major players in our dysfunctional political financing and politicianing whoring black market. So, both sides of the aisle are pretty vulnerable here. The only way this works is if we actually exercise that free speech and scare these people. Regulators and Congress-critters are shy, timid things when the voters actually make noise. As a progressive Democrat, Secular Humanist and Skeptic there are few things I can agree with some of my colleagues here at Vets. Vets by the way, is not so wealthy that we could pay the freight for high end access or else the editors have been kidding me. But, we can all get behind this idea -- the internet is one of the most democratic things we have in terms of leveling the playing field. Granted, one of the problems with democracy is the lack of quality control, but when left and right and moderate and downright scary extremists can agree on something, and make some noise, the bureaucrats and politicians tend to jump on the me-too train.
Be aware, of course, that eternal vigilance will be necessary to make this a permanent state of affairs, but that's OK. One thing that I've figured out is that if we want to protect liberty and freedom in the expanding chaotic democracy that is the 21st Century is that evil keeps coming back. Figuring out a way to banish it forever may well be impossible. But, that is no reason to accept it as inevitable. Actually, eternal vigilance is almost cliche these days-- protecting freedom and equality requires a rare level of being OCD...and, not boring.
A worried man with a worried mind No one in front of me and nothing behind There’s a woman on my lap and she’s drinking champagne Got white skin, got assassin’s eyes I’m looking up into the sapphire-tinted skies I’m well dressed, waiting on the last train
Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose Any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose
People are crazy and times are strange I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range I used to care, but things have changed
This place ain’t doing me any good I’m in the wrong town, I should be in Hollywood Just for a second there I thought I saw something move Gonna take dancing lessons, do the jitterbug rag Ain’t no shortcuts, gonna dress in drag Only a fool in here would think he’s got anything to prove
Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff too Don’t get up gentlemen, I’m only passing through
People are crazy and times are strange I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range I used to care, but things have changed
I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road If the Bible is right, the world will explode I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can Some things are too hot to touch The human mind can only stand so much You can’t win with a losing hand
Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet Putting her in a wheelbarrow and wheeling her down the street
People are crazy and times are strange I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range I used to care, but things have changed
I hurt easy, I just don’t show it You can hurt someone and not even know it The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity Gonna get low down, gonna fly high All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie I’m in love with a woman who don’t even appeal to me
Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake I’m not that eager to make a mistake
People are crazy and times are strange I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range I used to care, but things have changed --Bob Dylan
(FYI, links are mainly to music!)
On Saturday night, my wife announced that she needed more Alfredo sauce for dinner and I was to go get it. Fine, into the car I went and wandered into the local grocery store. Found the stuff she wanted, a few other things except things I wanted, of course and went to pay. The guy at the checkout who's about my age --60s -- asked me what I thought about the Super Bowl. I immediately announced that I was some kinda communist by saying, "Don't know, don't really care, not that interested." I wasn't; I respect Peyton Manning's skill, of course and I thought the safety for the Seahawks got a raw deal on the kefluffle about that final play in the San Jose 49s game, but in general since my last tour in Germany, I just don't have that much interest in it as a sport or spectacle. I'm very interested in Rugby because I've played it and the game is far better regulated than American Football. A flagrant foul that puts an opposing player at risk is often rewarded as in Soccer with a red card and a couple of weeks or more off. The players are less armoured than they are in baseball, and the sport is faster and far more demanding. For the record, Bath beat Leciester this weekend in the Anglo-Welsh LV tournament while France beat England, Italy almost upset Wales and Ireland handled Scotland in a really great game. Brian O'Driscoll, at 35, had several assists as well as making 13 tackles. He's retiring after this year which given the nature of the game makes sense, but the fact is the Irish Outside Center is looking and playing like he did five or six years ago.
OK, who cares. Well, that's why I didn't catch any of the Super Bowl except the Budweiser stolen dog retrieved by Clydesdales commercial and the loan Denver touchdown. The Denver team handled the loss like pros, and the various scripts and memes have played out. OK, who cares....I didn't. However, I immediately began hearing about the Obama-O'Reilly nonsense and then that Bob Dylan had come out in favor of roasting Asian babies as a way of supplementing the world's protein supply. Curious...this got even more interesting as my Malcontent and Defeatist coven kicked in with complaints that Dylan was irrelevant, had been arrogant, and was a jerk because he said "Germany can make our beer." ( In fairness to the beer thing, the guy upset is both a beer connoisseur and a wannabe micro brewer.) Since I'm the sole Dylan worshipper at that stable, I had to react. So, I pointed out that it was a fucking commercial, not a new version of Luther's 95 Theses or a repudiation of the First Amendment. If you haven't seen a Chrysler commercial for the last couple of years, you've missed people like John Varvatos -- fashion guru to the rock world and hip -- and Iggy Pop --grey eminence of the Punk Rock movement which is odd since he long predates punk! -- as well as Snoop Dog back when Iaccoca was involved just prior to the sale to Mercedes in about 2000 all making Chrysler commercials. Eminem made a damned Chrysler commercial for the 2012 Super Bowl. All of them have been about how wonderful the Chrysler brand is, calling up memories of Ricardo Montalban babbling about rich Corinthian leather in the Chrysler New Yorker. Dylan's commercial was different.
Dylan's approach was different -- this was a traditional, lunch bucket, pro-union commercial. Dylan was not on the screen when they showed the Chrysler trademark and the shot of their Chrysler 200; in fact, the only functioning vehicle I recall was James Dean screaming down the road on what I believe was a Triumph motorcycle. While he did a voice over, the screen showed shots of Hemi-engines and his hands fiddling around with his guitar, what looked like a Gibson Jumbo acoustic. When he moved through the scene, he was kind of channeling an old David Leary commercial for Nike and kind of channeling the Boondock Saints and kind of channeling Johnny Cash and kind of channeling himself in myth and in "Duquesne Whistle." Most people who work with their hands for a living -- like my GM autoworker brother-in-law, Murph Cowmeadow -- loved it and are having trouble figuring what the problem was. Well, there really wasn't one...
Well, I enjoy Alex Wagner's show, but she went on a humorless politically correct rant that we could have skipped. Basically, Dylan's paean to the ingenuity, history and spirit of the American worker in general and autoworkers in Detroit in particular was "jingoistic:" his argument simplistic because "Asia is not a country," and so on. She made the comment in the beginning that Dylan was "once legendary..." Yeah, she needs to slap her producers, because this piece just made her look like the progressive version of people like Anne Coulter or Michelle Bachman. She talked about how Germany was an economic powerhouse and how Switzerland is an economic powerhouse so it was absurd to reduce them to brew masters and watchmakers. And then there was Asia...
Hilarious. The script said, "So, let Germany make our beer, let Switzerland make our watches, let Asia assemble our phones but we'll make our cars." When he said that, he was in the union hall, playing pool and standing with the folks who were playing, and probably were Chrysler autoworkers.So much much the "Progressive" take on the commercial, along with claims that Dylan is a sell-out. Well, that's funny; when you think you've figured out what Dylan is doing and going to do next, forget it, he's faked you out again. However, the fact that Chrysler did such a positive commercial and showcased an authentic American voice and American workers made his song which provided the musical theme really fit --" Things have changed..." Watch and learn.
The other commercial which does not have peopleupset had a beer terrorizing a store in search for Chobani Greek Yogurt, with the Dylan song from 1966's Blonde on Blonde, "I Want You"playing in the background. Of course, yogurt is more favorably seen on the left than cars except hybrids, and Greek style yogurt is definitely not jingoistic. Plus, the Bear not only gets his yogurt but he befuddles the people who've ruined his habitat and makes a fool out of the law. So, I guess they'll give him a pass on this one. although I did see at least one guy complain that he sold out one of his best songs for yogurt. For the record, I've never heard anyone describe "I Want You" as one of his best songs, even on the Blonde on Blonde Album. But...
Just finished Robert Hilburn's Johnny Cash -- The Life. Still thinking about it, but there seems to be a theme to his life -- he had the ability to hit peaks of accomplishment, and then would risk it over silliness, again and again and again. I can relate because his addiction was both part of the risk and he fooled himself with it. But, turns out June had some addiction problems as does his son and most of the people around him. No fairy tales here -- talented man with a lot of integrity but definite feet of clay, at least up to mid-calf... I'd heard before of how there were two Johnny Cash personalities -- JR when he was right with himself and Cash when he wasn't it. Seems like a waltz. And, he was incredibly sick at the end -- Parkinson's , broken jaw that was not fixed properly, arthritis, diabetes, and you name it, family dying around him and the fear of being irrelevant... So, that makes his work with Rubin even more amazing...guy had a wicked sense of humor when he was right...but when he was in the throes of his addiction, he was pretty well screwed up as a human being. So, I'd recommend it, but with the proviso that you have some of his music handy to soundtrack it and get perspective. He also seems closer to Dylan than I had realized -- seems that since they were both such strong introverts, they'd get together and play a little but not talk too much...could have stood more from people like Kris Kristofferson, Rodney Crowell. Nice pieces from Marty Stuart, the family, and so on. I always thought Larry Gatlin was a Houston artist, but appears the first time John heard him was at his local church when he went with June and then between the despair, the singing and the companionship, he once again answered an altar call. The secret to understanding Johnny Cash seems simple -- see the good, accept the bad and evaluate as opposed to judge. Of course, if you were having to deal with doped up crazy Cash, that was hard to do. Lots of people did it well, like Billy Graham and Kristofferson because they weren't there all the time. Cash was very vulnerable to emotional judo; and, some people got more out of him artistically and professionally than others. Hilburn indicates and cites examples of Cash saying that the first producer he really trusted after Sam Phillips and Cowboy Bill Clemens was Rick Rubin...30 plus years after leaving SUN. Go figure...
Christmas Time With Some Spirit --- Sheri Miller and Neko Case
I discovered Sheri Miller a few years ago largely by accident, and have never been sorry for it. Sheri is an exceptionally talented young singer-songwriter and has been growing in popularity and impact since the release of her first album. Anyway, one of the songs she had out on YouTube was a Christmas piece that really spoke to me and a lot of other people. However, it wasn't really in line with what she was doing on her CDs really -- she's not happy, happy, happy like some artists her age, but she's not a despairing female goth trying to channel NICO from Velvet Underground or Leonard Cohen's feminine side either. I've written about it before and encouraged her to publish it more formally, and she's gotten around to doing it, which is an excellent thing, and is giving away downloads of Merry-Christmas (Jesus it's been a helluva year!) and Diamond Christmas here. Visit, tell her what you think and tell her I sent her...or not. But, download the music. The one that I've done everything but beg or bribe her to release is Merry Christmas (Jesus it's been a Helluva Year.) Here's the You Tub Version) --and some other stuff. She's great, and will be around for a while...her last album included a session with Steve Cropper of STAX and Booker T. and the MGs fame, and Cropper is notorious for not wasting his time ....She's also willing to do a lot for her music, as Mantra's sel-inflcited semi-drowning attests...
And then there's Neko Case. Ms. Case is the exceptionally talented, fellow-NW self-exile that I've occasionally written about but follow closely because of her excessive talent, interesting story and odd take on life, love and the baseball game. She's an incredible singer, good guitarist and an exceptional songwriter. I suspect that at some point she'll write something other than lyrics, and when she does, I intend to pre-order it where ever she sells it. She's fascinated by history -- ask her to tell you how she feels about George Armstrong Custer, for example, and she'll cite a list of things making him obnoxious and vastly overrated that most professional soldiers and objective historians can sign on to without hesitation. I follow her on Twitter, and she's got a someone rough attitude toward Christmas celebrations. I think it's a combination of sad memories combined with no longer wanting to endure the ShoppingPorn and general absurdity of the season. I think that's sad because she's entirely too beautiful in body, soul, heart and mind to be that bitter. That doesn't, however, make her wrong. If anything, probably makes her more right than not...Anyway, she covered a Tom Waits classic a couple of years ago, and I discovered it by accident, trolling You Tube for something else entirely, and fell in love with it. In it's own way, it expresses what Christmas should be about, even though we lose sight of that in contemporary culture.
And then there's some kind of reality.The House-Senate Conference Committee appears to have reached a compromise that both sides will hate but will at least keep us from Son of Shutdown until after the mid-terms. As most Progressives and Republicans will be pissed off by it, I suspect it can pass but only as everyone holds their noses. Well, at least it will make them actually do something over the next 10 months or so besides cry about the budget. Maybe they'll actually do something in the House besides vote to repeal Obama care!
So, I'm listening to the news and I get to see the great Republican presidential hope, Chris Christie, shake his finger in the face of a school teacher and say something like "you people have all the money you want..." Was he talking about education in general, teachers or something else. (40-something women? Brunettes?) My initial thought was that the difference between telling it like it is and being a bully is probably when 300 pound plus politician starts sticking his finger in the face of a normal sized woman. The other thing that struck was that there's something seriously insane about a system that rewards bullies with high elective office. Now, I fully expect Christie to win re-election in New Jersey and I also think he will not have a chance in the Republican primaries, but his rise indicates the problem with electoral politics in this country. He seems to be a relatively competent guy at pulling the technocratic levers and working out compromises, but his cocky, East Coast version of the GWB smug rich guy really doesn't play well. Ultimately, I expect he'll blow up on something, and that will be that -- it won't happen prior to the election.
"Mr. President, I need to act crazy to placate these yahoos so we can eventually get some business done..."
Now, when you shake your finger in the face of someone, you're assuming a certain level of jerkdom that is seldom justified. When Governor Brewer shook her finger in the face of the President, he handled it as he has the other disrespectful acts of his presidency, and gracefully continued the conversation. Of course, given her late conversion to pragmatism on things like Medicaid expansion, it's perfectly possible that she began by saying, "Mr. President, I need to appear to be yelling at you to placate these yahoos so we ultimately get something done." No mics captured the moment. And, the governor of Arizona is not in a power position over the president of the United States. He knows that and so does she; when wildfires sweep through the brush and forests of Arizona, she'll be asking for his help and he'll be giving it. That's the way government is supposed to work.
Christie, on the other hand, chose to bully a school teacher, Melissa Tomlinson. As the Huffington Post article pointed out, she chose to respond, using the blog of a Fordham University Professor, Dr. Mark Naison's With a Brooklyn Accent,to respond to respond. The letter is worth reading as a whole, but the response to his question, "What do YOU people Want!"is worth quoting, as is her earlier expression of mistrust and disappointment with the Christie Administration.
Why do you portray schools as failure factories? What benefit do you reap from this? Have you acquired financial promises for your future campaigns as you eye the presidential nomination? Has there been back-room meetings as you agree to divert public funds to private companies that are seeking to take over our public educational system? (Farrell emphasis)This is my theory. To accomplish all of this, you are setting up the teachers to take the blame. Unfortunately, you are not the only governor in our country that has this agenda. What do “we people' want, Governor Christie? We want our schools back. We want to teach. We want to be allowed to help these children to grow, educationally, socially, and emotionally. We want to be respected as we do this, not bullied.
One thing that struck me was the rather smugly forced smile on Mrs. Christie's face. The crowd, according to Weigel was totally against the teacher and totally for Christie. However, that pained smirk bothered me. According to Weigel, he was struck by it too, but then noticed that there was a news camera on them, and the first rule for candidates wives is to keep on smiling. Having somewhat similar roots to Christie's, I'm very used to dutiful Irish wives standing by their blowhard husbands while hubby is making an ass out of himself. I expect that she let him have it when they got home -- that is the Irish way; in public, support; in private, eviscerate mercilessly. Weigel, is a relatively mainstream moderate conservative -- which means registered independent, voting Democrat and praying for the return of Richard Nixon or Ike. I enjoy his writing but he has obviously been bitten by the conspiracy bug, positing a doublespeak meaning and then moderating it a bit.
Most people commenting on the photo have gotten the details right, but I've noticed some (occasionally rude) remarks about the expression on Christie's wife's face. Mary Pat Christie smiled through the entire talk-off. Why? Because a local NBC News camera was facing her, capturing the scene. Two days later, I don't see any trace of the video online. Is that a statement on how ordinary the confrontation was? Possibly. I think it's also a reflection of the front-runner coverage boosting Christie as the race ends, as the polls showing him winning (with up to 37 percent of voters not even knowing who is opponent is)...
Oh man, this guy is going down big! Big I say...maybe I can slip behind this divider and escape unnoticed except for the speech I just gave...
While I don't think Christie is a likely candidate, I do think Rand Paul is going to jump in with both feet. Unfortunately, he seems to have a strange relationship with the truth, and even in retaliating, he plagarizes without attribution. The story is pretty well known -- The Maddow show busted him for plagaizing Wikipedia in a number of speeches, specifically the entries on Gattica (really?) and Stand and Deliver. While Paul and his apologists have made this seem like some linguistic trick on the part of "haters" the speeches used the language word for word. He mentioned the movies, which makes sense because otherwise his comments would have no context. But he didn't mention the fact that his text was from Wikipedia. Anyone who has written a term paper, and Paul states that he has written professional articles for scientific journals so he's got the merit badge in references, knows that if you use text verbatim except very incidentally, you need to give credit. He didn't.He now says he'll do better but he didn't do anything wrong. Well, no. If I were grading the text of his speeches, and the text of his book which lifted some pieces of a Heritage Foundation Tome, or his op-eds, he might not get an F but no higher than a C, assuming that he could convince me it was all inadvertent. However, let's just say, ok, technical foul, Joe Biden made the same sort of inadvertent mistake and 20 years later he gets to be Vice President. Since being a board certified opthamologist from a board of which he was the only member was his primary qualification to be Senator, I suspect that Dr. Paul can use some more seasoning, so in 20 years he can run Vice President and this will all be forgotten. However, that might be too late.
[U]nder thousands of things I’ve written, yeah, there are times when they’ve been sloppy or not correct or we’ve made an error. But the difference is I take it as an insult, and I will not lie down and say people can call me dishonest, misleading or misrepresenting. I have never intentionally done so. And like I say, if – you know, if dueling were legal in Kentucky, if they keep it up, you know, it’d be a duel challenge. But I can’t do that because I can’t hold office in Kentucky then.
There seems to be some ongoing confusion on the senator’s part about the nature of the controversy, which may be causing him to lose his cool. Perhaps I can help by highlighting the basics:
1. Rand Paul presented others’ work as his own several times.
2. Rand Paul got caught.
3. Rand Paul has not yet explained why how or why he presented others’ work as his own.
I’m at a loss as to why this is proving to be so difficult for the senator.
Doctors in general don't play well with others. They have to feel that they're the smartest guy or gal in the room, and any evidence to the contrary can get under their skin. Dr/Senator/Candidate/Citizen Paul is in no way a stupid man. He hasn't paid attention to his staff -- Remember the Southern Avenger?-- and either trusts them to not screw up or he doesn't really care if they do. Kind of a libertarian acceptance of man's fate? Figures that until they learn, they'll make mistakes and boy, howdy, will they be awesome then? Like it or not, I don't believe he writes his own speeches or articles and depends on Heritage or his staff to do so. He assumes they are not screwed up and will not screw up. He's wrong.
For those you wondering what retiring Democratic politician I referred to above, Remember Zell Miller? Miller was the Democratic governor of Georgia who then was appointed to the Senate and played the Blue Dog Democratic role that so many have played. He was not against social programs, he was not a "Neo-Confederate" and he seemed to operate in the Senate in a way that was effective for the msot part However, he decided to retire from the Senate and did a farewell turn at the Republican Convention in 2004, tearing into the Democrats and accusing John Kerry and Ted Kennedy of all sorts of awful things. He came on MSNBC shortly after his speech, on Hardball and since Chris Matthews is a fairly direct interviewer, found that rather than be anointed with oil and laurel, he was going to be asked tough questions. So, he accused Matthews of being mean and attempting to brow beat him, culminating in this exchange:
MILLER: If you‘re going to ask a question...
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s a tough question. It takes a few words.
MILLER: Get out of my face.
MILLER: If you are going to ask me a question, step back and let me answer.
MATTHEWS: Senator, please.
MILLER: You know, I wish we...
MILLER: I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel.
MILLER: Now, that would be pretty good.
Don‘t ask me—don‘t pull that...
MATTHEWS: Can you can come over? I need you, Senator. Please come over.
MILLER: Wait a minute. Don‘t pull that kind of stuff on me, like you did that young lady when you had her there, browbeating her to death. I am not her. I am not her...
So, while Citizen Paul has not as yet challenged Rachel Maddow to a duel, it could still happen. However, given than Dr. Maddow was a Rhodes Scholar and multi-letter woman at Stanford I'd probably pass on the debate unless he's planning on it being on Jeopardy with the topics of Ayn Rand , Duke Fraternities and Sororities, Opthamologists I have known, Wit and Wisdom of Ron Paul and Obamacare.
But, I'd still put my money on Maddow. His staff would screw up his Cliff Notes.
I knew this was going to happen, as did a lot of us. Theoretically, it was the stuff of public health discussions and philosophy of science and ethics for a long time. First clue that the end was coming was probably when MRSA became a big issue. But, a friend of mine with too much time on his hands Facebook-ed this earlier today with the note that it was time to start singing the doom song. Since he's a system administrator for start-ups by profession, he's used to everyone running around saying the world will end tomorrow...in this case, it might.
Another reality is there’s not much money to be made in making new antibiotics, so we saw a lot of drug companies who left the field of antibiotic development because of this combination of factors, that it was getting really hard to discover, to develop new antibiotics, and you don’t make a lot of money in selling these drugs, so the market really wasn’t there. …I can’t tell a patient who has a resistant infection, “If we can get you through this next six months or this next year, there’s going to be a great drug that’s coming.” Or I can’t tell oncologists, for example, “Well, six months from now we’re going to have therapies to offer you; we’re going to have something to combat these infections.”
The drugs aren’t there. And we know it takes a long time to get drugs from the development stage through testing and into the market. Right now, I can’t tell you when you’re going to have a new antibiotic to treat these highly resistant Gram negatives. The best I can say is it’s probably going to be several years, but I can’t point to one that’s in development and say, “We’re going to have that one in three years.”
There is a temptation to be snarky here. "We don't have effective antibiotics? No problem--get some turtle dung, eye of newt and blood of frog and go to town. Maybe some fire...yeah, lots of fire." Unfortunately, this is actually kind of real and is another reason why we should be spending a lot of taxpayer money on developing new therapies. Instead, the Rs are worrying about a bad software site. Bengazi. The fucking national debt that they exploded, TARP that they demanded. Here's the thing -- if we have a succession of plagues caused by diseases we could have treated but now can't, everyone is vulnerable. EVERYONE. The weaker and less healthy will get sick first, but everybody will be at serious risk. This demands a systemic response to which the Ryan-Boehner-Barton-McKeon response will be something along the lines of denial, blaming Obama, scheduling days of prayer and perhaps having Teddy Cruz's dad, the faith-healing Cuban minister (Santeria, anyone?) do some TV faith-healing. After all, it's OK in their minds to swear in to the Congress by TV?
Of course, the Randian-Markets are Magic crowd can indicate the cited interview. After all, this was on PBS, on Frontline. Commie bastards! And the guy in question is a government scientist. Pointy-headed, drone! A damn take wants us to worry...ok, how about the head of R&D from Pfizer, Dr. Charles Knirsch? The drugs aren't there. They're not even working on them...
Q. But did that mean that you had to close down the antibiotic thing to focus on vaccines? Why couldn’t you do both?
A. Oh, good question. And it’s not a matter of closing down antibiotics. We were having limited success. We had had antibiotics that we would get pretty far along, and a toxicity would emerge either before we even went into human testing or actually in human testing that would lead to discontinuation of those programs. Again, the science was difficult, and we have these other platforms, these vaccine platforms that are state of the art that we think that the prudent allocation of capital addressing very, very important medical need, we would devote the resources to those programs.
Q. So you decided essentially to shift the capital away from antibiotics and toward vaccine platforms.
Q. And there were, according to people we’ve talked to, promising compounds at that time. You certainly had what some people described to us as the best and the brightest in the world working on some of these things at Pfizer. But you just said to me that there were problems with them and that there were difficulties, so I just wonder, was this program not the best and the brightest and one of the best in the world?
A. I don’t know which programs you’re referring to. Could you be more specific? Some of these programs right now haven’t even been moved into animal testing.
Now, I want any reader to understand this -- Pfizer is doing this not because they're greedy bastards, or at least, not solely because they are greedy bastards. They're doing because they see antibiotics as a dead end and they need to do something else which is going to require some hard and expensive research, development and clinical trials taking years. They didn't see the "return on innovation," and saw too much risk due to the difficulties of the science involved and the "uncertain regulatory pathways." In other words, things cost too much to do, too much risk of failure and then it just takes time to get a drug through testing, even if it's fast tracked. Should the new antibiotic cause serious side effects that outweigh the benefits, the legal liabilities are incredible. "So, get the divining rod out, Myrtle, we need to find a new well and different magic beans."
I'm honestly not knocking big Pharma so much as capitalism -- the unchecked Capitalism and greed advocated by the Republican Party of the "de-regulate, we're sorry BP, Enron didn't do anything wrong" era. Dr. Krnirsch speaks about public-private partnerships involving government research, universities and what really amounts to cross-fertilization between the various big and small pharmaceutical firms as scientists move between academe, government and business. Frankly, this is one place where the revolving door is not only not a problem for the nation, but where it works to our advantage. But, the fact is that scientific research is part of that "discretionary" funding thing shut down as non-essential during the latest Tea Party led unpleasantness. We're spending a lot less on pure science than we used to, and people like Palin, Cruz, Lee, Bachmann, Demint, Anne Coulter, Hannity and O'Reilly and so on delight in laughing at research studies and the boundary-less nature of what government has funded in the past.
Basic research costs more and more because it's less and less basic, and science is pretty much boundary-less by it's nature. If you are a PhD in biology specializing in primates, you have a deep understanding of math, statistics, chemistry, and some familiarity with physics, earth science and other more esoteric things besides how monkeys work.
Basic science and hard science is not something best left to the private sector because the private sector, even the hugely financially successful Pharmaceutical industry, is not designed to take on high risk, low return efforts.
The ideal drug for Pfizer is Viagra,which was initially developed as a tool for hypertension. The physiological effect of lowering blood pressure in the male reproductive organs those allowing better circulation was a side effect that became the reason for the drug's existence. As it came closer and closer to going off patent, Pfizer began to look at it as a mechanism for combating teenage hypertension. In fact, lower doses of the drug are marketed for some types of hypertension but are off patent; the primary money-making purpose for the drug is ED and those patents do not expire until 2019. However, there's nothing to prevent a physician from subscribing the lower dose and less expensive and possibly generic version for ED. They'd just have to prescribe multiple pills...When Canada allowed manufacture of generic Viagra, Pfizer countered by lowering the prices for the real stuff and then appealed saying that the Canadian legal system had erred. As a result, Canada invalidated all the patents on Viagra in Canada.
Scientific and medical research is not about making money; pharmaceutical firms are about making money. As we shift funding for research more to the private sector and less to the public sector, there will be less of the hard science and more of what might be considered technology, which can be described reasonably as the effort to take some scientifically known elements and apply them to resolve engineering problems of one type or another. Writing computer code is an example of a technological use of known scientific processes (coding, math logic, binary math, etc. etc. etc.) some of which is invisible to the writer and can be. But, re-designing the structure of micro-processors to depend on some as yet unknown principle of quantum mechanics or organic as opposed to inorganic chemical compound is science; the basic science lies in discovering that as yet unknown principle or compound.
Business excels at technology because the risk is an engineering solution; not so much at the other aspects of the continuum. The firm answers to the shareholders who may not be willing to absorb the losses of failed experiments trying to turn peanut butter into jet fuel. (That image is homage to Jerry Harvey and the Abilene Paradox, a great explanation for what's going on in Congress and the Republican party. Thank you Dr Harvey for again helping us all understand.)
o, how do we get the hard science done? Lots of it is done in the great research universities around the world, funded by foundations, Pharma and government. In this country, the only organization that can absorb the cost and the risk of this sort of research -- consider it to be a form of scientific infrastructure -- is the Federal Government. Not funding that risks not having the next great innovation; more to the point, in this incredibly complex organism that is the human community, it risks not being able to respond to the next crisis because no one has even thought of the problem.
The return on investment for a firm in basic science is really limited; the return for the nation on all infrastructure -- intellectual, technological, industrial, transportation, communication -- is incredible largely because the nation is the only one who can afford to do it. To those who worry about burdening future generations with debt, I suggest they consider if the future generations would like to have a future based on eye of newt and fire in hovels and caves connected by goat carts where strep throat and pneumonia kill 50% of the population before age 12, or something marvelous. If it all falls apart, the debt is going to be not an issue; survival will be questionable. We are a community, all in this together; failing to act that way as our right wing compatriots recommend is infuriating, and amusing, and really just an awful idea. The good news is when the universal pandemic comes, like the black death, plutocrats and senators and their families and supporters will suffer as much if not more than the poor, hungry, weak and those who serve them. However, it's cold comfort -- doing something now seems a far better approach than this when it's too late.
The class warfare issue: my working theory is that wealthy individuals bought themselves a radical right party, believing — correctly — that it would cut their taxes and remove regulations, but failed to realize that eventually the craziness would take on a life of its own, and that the monster they created would turn on its creators as well as the little people. And nobody knows how it ends. --Paul Krugman
I seldom agree with Congressman Pete King (Republican, County Antrim...err, New York) about much of anything. Certainly, we both have the Irish ability to prevaricate which enables him to see a difference between the Provisional IRA and al Qaeda or Hamas that really doesn't exist. Seriously, Franz Fanon could have written about Falls Road as opposed to Algeria, and same story. So, King's advocacy for gunrunners and money launderers for Green Power while absolute condemnation of anything pro-Palestinian or prop-Arab is interesting. Since I stopped drinking 23 years ago, it's harder for me to do that. I just run out of patience with my own bullshit.
Fortunately for the Republicans, John Bohener hasn't quit drinking. So he's able to babble insanely and push a legislative and economic agenda he doesn't believe in for a bunch of clowns he probably despises surrounded by a team he doesn't trust and NOT HAVE HIS HEAD EXPLODE! Fortunate for the Republican party in the short term, but bad for the country and the Republican party in the long run. But, with Guinness and Bushmills as opposed to Chardonnay comes clarity and Pete King has long since reached the point of cognitive dissonance and his constituents are probably telling him to knock off the crap and get something done. No Republican seat in downstate is a safe seat; to be successful, you have to understand people and compromise and the art of getting things done. So Pete King has a pretty good tether to earth and reality. Louis Gomert and Michelle Bachmann, not so much. So, he finds himself in something like the position of Lot in Sodom, trying to find a few more just men in the Republican Caucus. Good luck with that:
“We can’t be going off on these false missions that Ted Cruz wants us to go on,” King continued. “The issues are too important. They’re too serious, they require real conservative solutions, not cheap headline-hunting schemes.”
If you've been reading my rantings for any period longer than, well, this you know that I am a skeptic about most things but a firm believer that the rich and hyper-rich who are paying attention have pretty consciously been engaging in class warfare for decades. Paul Krugman's and Ezra Klein's analysis is spot on in this case. The question really is how'd we get here...and I suggest listening to The Talking Head's for the ontological answer. Or, Google the Senate Chaplain's Barry Black's opening prayer yesterday. As Alex Rogers commented at Swampland, Time Magazine's Washington Blog,
For some, at least, the only thing left to do was pray. “Eternal God, our ever present help in trouble, as our nation stumbles toward a seemingly unavoidable government shutdown, keep our lawmakers from sowing to the wind, thereby risking reaping the whirlwind,” prayed the Senate chaplain Barry C. Black on the floor before the vote. “Remember that all that is necessary for unintended catastrophic consequences is for good people to do nothing.”
Well, they certainly didn't do nothing. Rather, they kept doing the same thing, and frankly, it's hard to pick out the most egregious, disingenuous piece of bullshit spewed by the Republican conference. I particularly like the idea that the President wasn't willing to negotiate. WE'RE IN THIS MESS BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT REFUSED TO ACCEPT THAT THE REPUBLICANS IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE WERE INCAPABLE OF NEGOTIATING IN GOOD FAITH. If you have the patience for it, review the legislative history of the Affordable Care Act and the various budget issues over the last couple of years. I think in Barack Obama we are looking at the second coming not of Abraham Lincoln but of Woodrow Wilson. He's a reasonable man dealing with irrational people who are less interested in doing what's right for the country than in avoiding their "Base's" anger and primary action. Absurd. Wilson's ultimate failure was due to his inability to realize that some people won't see reason; Obama's history is yet to be inscribed, but I suspect that he'll have a similar fate.
I particularly like the R's decision to strip themselves and the Executive's employees of health insurance in supposed solidarity with what the American people are going through...despite the fact that there's a huge difference between the situation of the folks affected by the insurance coverage of the Affordable Care Act and the people who work for the Executive and Congressional Branches of Government. The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, doesn't really have anything to do with the members of Congress or their staff...They Already Have Employer Provided Health Care. This is grandstanding by plutocratic jerks and while nothing will come of it, the staff of the Republicans on the Hill should start sending out resumes now. Just what K-Street needs, more lobbyists.
I'm also enjoying the coverage of the stench of booze on both sides of the aisle; however, it seems like the Dems wait until the bill is actually passed and something is done. (It's also possible that the media is trying to be "fair and balanced" damning both sides. ) Well, now we know...for sure. Wouldn't you love to get a urine sample result from Michelle Bachmann? A breathylizer reading from Boehner?
Failure of Leadership
with Lots of Unexpected Consequences
I have been relatively quiet on Bradley Manning and Edward
Snowden because I am very conflicted about what to think. Like a lot of folks
who are reading this, I’ve had the clearance and the access and I remember the
oaths I swore and the penalties. A lot of stuff then was pretty silly, but the primary
reason for the BURN BEFORE READING stamps was fairly simple – releasing the
information would reveal the source. Since I had a kind of obscure
specialty for a while, I can recall being dragged out of the Fort Clayton Golf
Course Bar by a CW4 who had been one of my students to read traffic that came
in as HOTHOTHOT and reading, shaking my head and pointing out the problem. It
was pretty funny, the chief went back and bought me another beer and we howled.
But, I still can’t talk about more than 20 years later.
Nor would I. Someone got some information they probably
should not have had and passed that along to someone else who somehow got it to
someone else. The fact that in that chain of someone’s was probably a source
just like Bradley Manning or Mr. Snowden is irrelevant. I don’t need to get
cheap laughs. However, if you have a SCIF handy, read me back on and I’ll tell
you the story.
So, you don’t talk about what you know. I taught at the
INTEL School and that’s where I learned my SKIF etiquette but that training
started a lot earlier. A boss of mine was reading one of Kissinger’s books
where it referenced the clearance that he had, and the boss went ballistic –
some things are incredibly sensitive even if you don’t care why. Henry the K
didn’t care about a couple of 10000 grunts and a couple of 100000 Vietnamese
and Cambodians or so; why would he care about something silly like the name of
an access? The boss’ boss came in to talk to us about it, and said that “We are
held to a higher standard.” You put on the uniform and you are held to a higher
On the other hand, the stuff that Manning leaked through
International Man of Mystery Julian Assange was primarily battle journals. In
other words, the old DA 1594s or whatever they are calling them now, some
SITREPs, some raw SPOT Reports and so on. He was a computer geek and a very
junior Intel Analyst. He plotted stuff on maps. If he had access to a lot of
highly classified stuff, that was really stupid.
But, the material is pretty damning. We were in a war that
we should not have started, fighting a professionals’ war against the people –
with the exception of the Kurds, at one time or another we were fighting
everybody while they consistently were and are fighting and killing each other.
We don’t get the culture, the religion, the climate the history. We still don’t, but that last time worked
out so well that there’s really no reason not to do it again.I just don’t see a statue of Tommy
Franks in the future of West Point.
Manning was getting a view of how silly that was, how
insane, how brutal and how fruitless. I don’t know what motivated the guy. But,
I do know that most of what he revealed was probably vastly over classified.
And then we get to another problem, one that I realized last night at dinner
with my wife who in her Army incarnation was a Documents Custodian in a Brigade
S2 in Europe. The coin dropped; she
worked as a civilian for DOD and DOT and I had been a contractor. Guess what –
no way if any current security procedures were being adhered to could Manning
have gotten the stuff he had to Wikileaks. We’re not discussing a highly
trained intelligence operative here, we’re talking about a pretty flakey
private in a combat zone., who appears to have been violating every principle
of handling sensitive and classified material in the book; according to
Wikipedia he told one of his biographers that he smuggled the stuff out on his
When the coin dropped, I dropped my sandwich. My wife at
best tolerates my jousting with windmills, but this one bugged her as much as
it bothers me. This should not have happened. And it did – and it was not
Manning who was the weak spot, but the supervision and leadership that let him
do whatever misguided and deranged crap he did.
Manning was on a
secure DOD/ Army system, in a sensitive compartmentalized intelligence facility
(SCIF) of some sort and he was able to download highly classified materials to
either thumb drives, data cards or CDs. The military
banned all that stuff on its computers prior to the kid's enlistment. While it
might be possible to cheat if you were on night shift in a CP someplace with
just a normal Army computer and nobody checking on you, in a SCIF there are a
lot of people checking on you usually. When you enter the SCIF, you are subject
to search; brief cases, backpacks and similar things are checked as a matter of
course. HOW THE HELL DID HE BREACH THE BASIC IT SECURITY AND THE PHYSICAL
SECURITY PROTECTING THIS STUFF? This is a serious concern. Certainly, the
officers and NCOs running the place should be investigated for either
complicity or negligence or both. If they say him with a CD, they needed to act
immediately; if they saw him with a data stick, ditto. Slipping a micro into a
slot would be really disturbing. Either
they didn’t care, they allowed it to happen or they just didn’t bother to watch
this obvious candidate for Soldier of
the Millenniums. Somewhere, SGT Morales is crying. The fact that somehow
this kid had access to TS and higher should bother a lot of us.Did DOD not investigate the guy prior to the
granting of the clearance? Was there no interview? How did he keep the
clearance after reprimands? WHO GETS REPRIMANDED FOR ASSAULTING AN OFFICER?
Maybe some hard corps grunt dealing with the problems of cooling down after a
fraught mission and being asked some silly crap; but, this guy was a REMF.
There's a lot to be concerned about here, but Manning's actual leaks are the
least of it. He was a computer GEEK and gee, the Army
needs those for places like Fort Meade and various Field Stations. Was he in a
Field Station? No, he was in the SCIF in a Forward Operating Base in Iraq. The
Army knew he needed help; they were going to discharge him during Basic for
unsuitability. Instead of washing him out, they sent him on to AIT and he got a
TS/SCI clearance. The unit wanted to leave him behind instead of taking him to
Iraq but they were short analysts so... Where the hell were the Counter-Intelligence
people who were supposed to be there? He was acting out all over the place in
all sorts of ways…and nobody noticed until a hacker reported him?
Seriously. In a combat zone, prior to
the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the guy was openly gay, disrespectful and
out of line.
Now, many years ago there was an Army Security Agency analyst
we’ll call Randy. Randy was at Field Station Augsburg and was very, very gay.
Openly gay. Blatantly gay. He cross-dressed and hung around the Bahnhof
according one guy who knew him. Nobody cared, he was really good at his job. The
MI community was always very tolerant of a lot of deviance, up to a point. One
story had the Politzei catching him
at the Bahnhof along with the MP liaisons and there he went. How do I know the
story is true? One of my officer students at the INTEL school told me about him;
then others told me about him; and then, when I was facilitating course with
the Warrants and the subject of stress and reactions to it was on the table,
one of the Warrants started saying that none of that was problem in the old
ASA, none of their soldiers had issues and this was a waste of everyone’s time
to consider. “Chief,” I asked, “Were you ever in Augsburg?” “Yeah, Sarge, I
spent most of my enlisted in Augsburg.” “Chief, did you ever know a guy named
Randy?” Silence…followed by laughter. “Oh hell, Sarge, Randy was my squad
leader…” “Were the stories true?” “Oh Shit! You had to be there…”
So, yeah, Manning is guilty of a lot of stuff.
However, given the obvious questions and the way the guy was treated while
awaiting trial -- Marine Stockade as opposed to Army Stockade? Solitary
confinement because he was suicidal? Naked? -- make me think that justice could
be best served in his case by sentencing him to reduction to E-1, a Less than
Honorable Discharge, and a couple of years in Leavenworth. I'd actually prefer
the reduction, a General Discharge under Honorable Conditions and time served.
And then, the Army needs to start asking some hard
questions about what the hell happened to common sense and adherence to basic
procedures safeguarding materials. Manning's Chain of Command needs desperately
to have a bunch of their careers ended so they can move on to their true
calling of asking if you want paper or plastic. If they'd been doing their
jobs, this wouldn't have happened. Everything about Iraq that went bad, down to
the way we found out a lot about it was due to a failure of leadership at a
really existential level.
Soldiers in combat cause collateral damage. Soldiers in combat do a lot
of things to block the horror. We know that. But, the American people need to
know that. They need to have their noses rubbed in it so every time some yahoo
decides to start demanding we go off to some war some goddamned place, there
are no surprises. Bradley Manning broke the law, broke his oath as a soldier
and did it irresponsibly and almost blithely. No Luther-Ellsberg existential
“Here I am, I can do no other…”anguish there. But, he needed help, guidance and
the attention that soldiers, especially weak soldiers need and deserve all the
time, not just in combat.
I had soldiers like Manning. Any NCO or Officer who led troops had to
deal with people like Manning. Too smart for their MOS, too smart for their
duties, not fitting in, not a lean mean fighting machine – just a kid who
needed his ass kicked and his shoulder patted. Instead, he was ignored, not
mentored, not helped and this is what happened. I had 200 soldiers in my last
company, and I knew all the flakes and made a point of watching them. I didn’t
bully them, I didn’t berate them, and I sought ways to help them grow and
adapt. I know my last company was at Fort Lewis and this was in Combat. I don’t
care; the way you operate in garrison is the same way you need to operate in
the field. If you take care of you soldiers, they’ll amaze you when the chips
are down. If you don’t, well, this is what happens.
Manning appears to have had other problems. He lived an openly gay life
prior to enlisting in the Army. While If you can salvage a marginal soldier,
you might create a superstar. But if you can’t, and it appears his chain of
command had figured out he wasn’t going to hack it, you don’t take them Iraq,
you don’t cut them slack for acting crazy, you don’t look the other way. You
get them out of combat, away from the unit and let the psychiatrists and JAG
determine what needs to happen next. YOU DON”T SHOVE THEM IN A POORLY
SUPERVISED SKIF for fifteen hours a day. But, “ Farrell, we were short analysts
in the worst way”. To which I can only respond, “Yeah, and look what that kind of
short term thinking got you.”