Category Archives: thuggery

Hedges v Obama

The Barack Obama administration, determined to thwart the attempt by other plaintiffs and myself to have the courts void a law that permits the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and indefinitely detain them, has filed a detailed brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to refuse to accept our petition to hear our appeal. We will respond within 10 days.

“The administration’s unstated goal appears to be to get court to agree that [the administration] has the authority to use the military to detain U.S. citizens,” Bruce Afran, one of two attorneys handling the case, said when I spoke with him Sunday. “It appears to be asking the court to go against nearly 150 years of repeated decisions in which the court has refused to give the military such power. No court in U.S. history has ever recognized the right of the government to use the military to detain citizens. It would be very easy for the government to state in the brief that citizens and permanent residents are not within the scope of this law. But once again, it will not do this. It says the opposite. It argues that the activities of the plaintiffs do not fall within the scope of the law, but it clearly is reserving for itself the right to use the statute to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely.”

The lawsuit, Hedges v Obama, challenges Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It was signed into law the last day of 2011. Afran and fellow attorney Carl Mayer filed the lawsuit in January 2012. I was later joined by co-plaintiffs Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O’Brien, Tangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla.

– Chris Hedges, truthdig

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Russian Aggressors

We refrained last week from drawing the (obvious) parallels between the Russian invasion and occupation of another sovereign nation and the United States foreign policy practices since Viet Nam. You know – fish::barrel, candy::babies, Moe::Larry/Curly.

Besides, we mused, perhaps the United States has moved on from that unacceptable behavior. perhaps we’ve finally learned our lesson about meddling in the affairs of others.

American Special Forces troops … scaled his walls with ladders on Thursday, arresting [Qazi Nasir] Mudassir and two other employees of [his] Radio Paighame Milli. … They were apparently unaware, he said, that his radio station is supported in large part by pro-government, pro-coalition propaganda advertisements paid for by the American military.

Mr. Mudassir said a force of more than two dozen Americans carried out the raid, ransacking his premises and damaging much of the broadcasting equipment, as well as seizing computers, phones and recording gear. “They even put that black hood over my head and slapped me and beat me,” he said.

“They treated us inhumanely even though we were very pro their presence, and pro-government,” Mr. Mudassir said. He said that he had been taken to the United States Army’s Special Forces base in Logar and held overnight, and that interrogators had tried to get him to identify photographs of people suspected of being insurgents. “They said, ‘You better tell the truth because you know if we want to kill you we can.’”

And there you have it, American foreign policy stripped down to its quintessential core: “If we want to kill you we can.”

We ought to thank Putin and his WWE madman ways for drawing attention away from the fact that the United States is till the most savage psychopath on the block.
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The One Percent

Anecdotes abound about the excesses of the One Percent.

We’ve all heard them; multi-million dollar bonuses for guiding a company to historic losses; wild cash-fueled dope, liquor and costly women splurges; bond traders with their own islands. But those were second-hand tales, fables designed to spook small children: “Beware the love of money, kids, or you’ll end up like Gordon Gekko.”

Comes now the confession of Sam Polk, “wealth addict”, derivatives trader (a position Sam says adds no value to society) and admitted willing instrument of the 2008 financial collapse.

This one will be talked about all week, kids; get in on the ground floor.

IN my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted…

After graduation, I got a job at Bank of America, by the grace of a managing director willing to take a chance on a kid who had called him every day for three weeks. With a year of sobriety under my belt, I was sharp, cleareyed and hard-working. At the end of my first year I was thrilled to receive a $40,000 bonus. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to check my balance before I withdrew money. But a week later, a trader who was only four years my senior got hired away by C.S.F.B. for $900,000. After my initial envious shock — his haul was 22 times the size of my bonus — I grew excited at how much money was available.

Over the next few years I worked like a maniac and began to move up the Wall Street ladder. I became a bond and credit default swap trader, one of the more lucrative roles in the business. Just four years after I started at Bank of America, Citibank offered me a “1.75 by 2” which means $1.75 million per year for two years, and I used it to get a promotion. I started dating a pretty blonde and rented a loft apartment on Bond Street for $6,000 a month.

I felt so important. At 25, I could go to any restaurant in Manhattan — Per Se, Le Bernardin — just by picking up the phone and calling one of my brokers, who ingratiate themselves to traders by entertaining with unlimited expense accounts. I could be second row at the Knicks-Lakers game just by hinting to a broker I might be interested in going. The satisfaction wasn’t just about the money. It was about the power. Because of how smart and successful I was, it was someone else’s job to make me happy.

Still, I was nagged by envy. On a trading desk everyone sits together, from interns to managing directors. When the guy next to you makes $10 million, $1 million or $2 million doesn’t look so sweet. Nonetheless, I was thrilled with my progress.

My counselor didn’t share my elation. She said I might be using money the same way I’d used drugs and alcohol — to make myself feel powerful — and that maybe it would benefit me to stop focusing on accumulating more and instead focus on healing my inner wound. “Inner wound”? I thought that was going a little far and went to work for a hedge fund.

Now, working elbow to elbow with billionaires, I was a giant fireball of greed. I’d think about how my colleagues could buy Micronesia if they wanted to, or become mayor of New York City. They didn’t just have money; they had power — power beyond getting a table at Le Bernardin. Senators came to their offices. They were royalty.

I wanted a billion dollars. It’s staggering to think that in the course of five years, I’d gone from being thrilled at my first bonus — $40,000 — to being disappointed when, my second year at the hedge fund, I was paid “only” $1.5 million.

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Anthony Weiner: Wanker

Anthony Weiner is a major asshole. He’s also dead in the water.

He must know, somewhere deep down in the tiny speck that passes for his conscience, he’s dead in the water but –for whatever reason 1— feels obligated to pretend he’s still a viable candidate for NYC mayor.

Yet he’s such a jackass he can’t even pull that off, confused as he has that junior high school arrogance is actually political inevitability. 2 It’s pathetic. And somehow soooo large city narcissistic; thank goodness out here in flyover country we’re immune to said behavior.

Or…you know, not.

Imagine our distress last night after perusing a number of emails 3 claiming that a Kansas City councilman recently pic-tweeted his junk around. While it remains to be seen whether this is a malicious smear or the truth (no date/time-stamped screenshots were attached to the emails), the simple existence of the emails is disappointing.

Kansas City truly doesn’t need to be any more Weiner-like.

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Show 3 footnotes

  1. I suspect Huma threatened to divorce him into penury if he dropped out of the race. Why? To get him out of the house (so she and her lawyers can build their case to divorce him into penury.)
  2. Speaking of junior high school: say “Huma Weiner” three times very fast.
  3. All posted using one-time sock-monkey accounts; FINGER and other addy tracking commands confirmed the accounts –via Hide My Ass– had already been deleted.

Brrrrr!

little mermaidWhen we speak of this years from now the conversation will be imbued with more than a tinge of nostalgia.

That was the year (we’ll say) that global warming gifted us with an early autumn in the heart of summer: we fell asleep sweating on July 26th and awoke September 27th looking for a sweater. Remember? It was the night we saw The Little Mermaid at The Starlight and it was chilly enough both you girls snuggled into me for warmth the entire second act…

And yes (we’ll chuckle) it was cute how the actor portraying Sebastian channeled his inner Whoopie Goldberg all night. 1 And the way all the characters undulated their bodies —the entire time– as though in a steady current? And the music. And wasn’t Ariel sooooooooooooo pretty! And ooh ooh ooh! The jellyfish! The jellyfish! 2

Yes, that’s right (we’ll sadly acknowledge), that was the last time we went to the Starlight. Remember toward the end of the show when I covered both your heads with my hands? That’s right, that’s what I said – to keep the June bugs from nesting in your hair. There were 9mm June bugs out that night, 3 to 5 of them, flying through the air we knew not where…Um hmm, yes, there was a police helicopter competing with the big battle between King Trident and that wicked, wicked (but oh so fun) Ursula! Yes, it was funny how so many people ran for their cars even before the cast was done singing the last number on stage…

Those were the days, we’ll say.

Those were the days.

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Show 2 footnotes

  1. Okay, let me go on record here and say that, for me? Personally? I’m sooooooooooooo over the whole way-too-smart, loyal black retainer character that humorously – though with just a touch of gentle irony – wisely foreshadows the major plot points of a show all night long. I mean, there’s racism and then there’s racism, amiright?
  2. The jellyfish were damned cool, actually. Far better than the ‘swimming’, which was achieved via the same rigging that allowed Scuttle to fly. Except that Scuttle could keep his legs up, while the show’s ‘fish’ had to sort of let theirs drag uselessly behind: diplegic sea creatures.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Warrior Cops

The country’s first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.

The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.

A number of federal agencies also now have their own SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA, the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the Department of the Interior. In 2011, the Department of Education’s SWAT team bungled a raid on a woman who was initially reported to be under investigation for not paying her student loans, though the agency later said she was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program.

The details of the case aside, the story generated headlines because of the revelation that the Department of Education had such a unit. None of these federal departments has responded to my requests for information about why they consider such high-powered military-style teams necessary.

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Tex-ass!

“If a woman is raped…We have hospital emergency rooms,” (Texas) Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R) insisted. “We have funded what’s called rape kits that will help the woman, basically clean her out. And then hopefully that will alleviate that.”

Good to know, Jodie. Good to know…


Pre-Nine/Eleven

I was working on the layouts for one of Jeff’s stories and was excited to tell this girl I was trying to impress more about it. But, as those young love conversations do, we moved off-topic pretty quickly, jumping from one topic to the next. I don’t remember much about those conversations now, but I still remember the distinct click the phone made when we switched from talking about the Iraq story to discussing her misadventures at the local laundromat earlier that evening.

That click became a regular occurrence on our office line—popping up as you’d move towards or away from more politically charged topics—and was followed not long after by intractable problems with our office phone line. Occasionally you’d pick up the phone and, instead of a dial tone, you’d get the digital static of a modem; other times you’d pick up and there’d be a few moments of silence followed by a click and a dial tone. Mid-conversation you’d sometimes find your voice beginning to echo, then snap back into normality. And of course, sometimes the phone would stop working entirely, and a bewildered customer service representative would mutter words about things being “flagged” before putting me on hold. The line would usually start working quickly after those service calls.

Finally, after an extended period of bad dial-tones and calls getting cut off, the line just entirely went dead. A particularly dogged technician came to the office. He spent time in our space, time in his truck, time up on a pole. If I remember right, he even drove to one of the main switches near us. Finally he came back, looking completely bewildered and said, “I really don’t know what to tell you. It’s almost as if your line goes somewhere else before it comes to us.” 1

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Show 1 footnote

  1. BONUS: Should you decide you really, REALLY want to draw the attention of the NSA, ISA, DISA, FBI and the CIA (and have yet to use our handy list of Alphabet Agency Attention Getters), simply go to Stop Watching Us and sign the petition.