4 months Ago
She tells of Cecily McMillan, who was beaten into a seizure by police offers and who two years later stands trial for assaulting a police officer, facing seven years in prison. The officer’s record of having beaten other suspects was deemed inadmissable.
Or there is the other recent case of a black woman who tried to stand her ground, as others have successfully done. She fired a warning shot into the air, killing no one, not even wounding anyone. These were the actions of “Marissa Alexander, a PhD and mom who [wanted to] stop her husband from beating her,” That’s not a good reason, is it? Are we even sure that her husband isn’t allowed to beat her in that state? And that’s not nearly as good a reason as the guy had who killed a boy in the back-seat of his SUV for playing music too loud. Not guilty! But Marissa’s going to go away for a long time for her transgression.
Who does this uppity woman think she is? Does she think she’s white? Rich? A citizen? A human being? Do not speak of justice in a system that produces hypocrisy on this scale. And the system does everything it can to make being poor or disadvantaged increase chances of prosecution dramatically.
We still have jury trials in the States; this means that non-professional, easily misled and nigh-constantly deluded undereducated head-cases are deciding your fate. Those are your peers. They can’t string two logical sentences together; what are the odds that they can wend their way through the facts of the case to come to a just conclusion? Nearly zero. What are the odds that they will decide your fate based on how you dress or act rather than evidence? Nearly certain.
And people who haven’t yet been convicted are made to suffer beforehand. The unconvicted are left to stew behind bars because they can’t afford ridiculous bail. The homeless guy who was recently broiled to death in Riker’s Island because he couldn’t pay $2500 for bail on his charge of loitering was in jail for this reason. He was luckier than the homeless guy in the SouthWest U.S. who was executed by police officers for the same crime. Sure, those are anecdotes, but that doesn’t change the fact that “[…] the average defendant [is] a person of colour charged with a drug crime.” And more and more prisoners are going away for longer sentences; more and more people are taking years before they get their trial.
As mentioned above, 95% just take the plea bargain in order to get some form of a life back. This is a life with a felony record and drastically reduced chances of making anything of yourself in a society that hates its ex-cons.
If you don’t plea out, you lose your life savings and may still go to jail. If you do plea out, you lose all chance of ever making decent money again. You see? In America, you still have the freedom to choose.
I am so tired of hearing of scintillatingly smart people who can’t seem to ever say anything that is even tangentially well-informed. We knew that the Bush administration was a booby-hatch full of cantankerous old farts who hadn’t been right about anything or even had an original thought since before it became illegal to beat your wife and black people, not necessarily in that order. That doesn’t excuse them in any way at all, but they didn’t even really have a veneer of intelligentsia to them.
And now we have a new administration full of supposed young guns, ready to take on the 21st century. Not only is the Obama administration a moral and ethical failure throughout the whole spectrum but this supposedly technically savvy and hyper-informed and educated pile of Rhodes and Constitutional scholars can’t even seem to grasp the basics of human interaction beyond that which you would find in any neighborhood sandbox. They are a bunch of kindergartners who don’t know enough to shut up and let the grownups handle things.
They are so seduced by what they continue to cling to as U.S. hegemony and power that they coast along, not even bothering to make up a story that even halfway jibes with reality. We end up with policy that is not only criminally stupid and dishonest and offensive to anyone with half a brain and half an education who’s read half a history book or even half-paid attention to current events, but it will drag the hubris-laden vessel of the U.S.—and likely a lot of the rest of world with it—to very murky depths before they’re through.
There is no need for diplomacy when you can just stamp your foot and scream and make up all of your own history and facts and information and have the sails of your stupidity belled out by the hot air blown in vast and steaming amounts by a slavish corporate media intent on selling lies that will buoy their bottom lines for the next quarter. And to hell with the rest of it. I got mine, jack.
Obama stood in front of an assembly in Bruges and dribbled out the most spectacularly uninformed and nuance-free drivel you could imagine, all but starting World War III with seemingly nary a thought that others on the planet may not have the global domination of the U.S. as a core guiding principle.
His advisors and helpmeets are no better, with the bevy of women he’s appointed to relatively high office doing absolutely nothing to provide evidence to support the theory that if women ruled the world, we’d have less violence. To the contrary, Samantha “boom-boom” Power nearly fell on her Russian counterpart with savage blows before she got herself under control.
There is a severe problem when the lunatics run the asylum. It is even worse when they forget where reality ends and their own propaganda begins.
John Kerry is another such laughable idiot—a buffoon if there ever was one—who doesn’t waste a single second trying to convince anyone of anything—instead averring with such a self-assured knowledge that he is telling the gospel truth that it is hard to believe that he could even tell the difference anymore.
All of these fools steamroll right past the ironies, hypocrisies and shocking double-standards that abound in all of their argumentation, assuming that we are so much stupider than they. It may well be that most people will simply go along with what these scholars say because they feel that such smart people could not possibly be deluded on so grandiose a scale.
Those believers are sadly mistaken. This is not the first time that the lunatics are at the helm. It is arguable that it has always been thus. That does not in any way make it more palatable.
Perhaps these leading lights of the U.S. State Department are justified in their cynicism. But I simply want it noted that people who are purportedly intelligent but spend all of their time grubbing for power and saying the most mind-bogglingly inane and provably false things should not be heeded. Their original intelligence does not matter because they are not employing it. At all. That they know better but are cynically manipulating the world for their personal gain is not even cold comfort. Far better if we could just get them to leave us alone.
And don’t think that this vapidity is confined to the administration and its hangers-on. The Republican love of Putin is a pure knee-jerk reaction against the Obama administration, nothing more. They are not handling this any better nor are they exhibiting any greater level of intelligence than does a plant when it leans toward the sun.
Putin is not a grand guy but he is rational, he can be eminently reasonable and he seems to have the best interests of his country at heart. He has also exhibited absolutely no designs on taking over other countries. Crimea was not a takeover. The situation was forced on him by any logical reading of the events. That the U.S. paints this in any other way is so disingenuous and cynical that it’s nearly warping the space-time continuum. Be that as it may, all of the things listed above could be used as levers by diplomats worth their name in order to come to an agreement with Russia. But an agreement is not what is sought.
What is sought instead by the U.S. is utter domination and degradation and capitulation on the part of any other country that has a whit of power remaining. Countries like Russia and Chine will not bow so easily—nor do they have any reason to, when one looks at the facts and the reality rather than the mythic world of American exceptionalism. The Idiocracy that is America is shooting itself in the foot time and again, thinking that it can create history and bend reality and facts to its whims. The rest of the world tires of these spoiled-child antics and just wishes the U.S. would go away.
Kerry leaps to support the rebels in Venezuela—but it is a rebellion of the rich against the poor, throwing a temper tantrum because they want their country back in the hands of a few oligarchic families. But the OAS was recently asked by the U.S. to vote for intervention and overthrow of Maduro in Venezuela. The U.S. received a resounding NO, with only Canada and Panama voting in favor. Everyone else in the OAS told the U.S. (and Canada) to go f&%*k themselves. And rightly so. Because only an immoral jackass would support a “revolution” promulgated by the upper class against the poor. When put that way, it makes sense that Kerry was for it.
When Honduras was overthrown by an extreme right-wing party, the Obama administration fell all over itself to validate the revolution and welcome the new rulers into the international community—constitutionality be damned. It was the same in Venezuela during the 24-hour coup of Chavez. It was the same in Libya. It was the same in Kosovo. It was the same in Ukraine, where the U.S. once again cheerfully supports a fascist government—as long as they accept U.S. (NATO) missiles on their border with Russia. Shooting distance to Iran is also not a bad consolation prize.
The lunatics are running the asylum and we’re all along for the ride. The media doesn’t care. They love the simple story told by the administration. Or is it that the administration loves the simple story told by the media? It’s so hard to tell who’s the dog and who’s the tail and who’s doing the wagging.
The danger that the rest of the world sees is that these kindergarten-level administrators and diplomats and officials have a ton of power and weapons and influence still to burn. And they have a craven and willing media at their back, which is eager to sell a ton of advertising for their Cold War Redux coverage.
We can only hope that Putin remains reasonable and picks his battles and doesn’t get drawn into the idiocy. He has been reassuringly stable and grounded so far. It is an utter shame that we have to hope for this cypher of a man to prevent the gaggle of idiots at the helms of other countries (Angela Merkel has toned down the rhetoric considerably of late, in fairness) from plunging us all into a nuclear winter.
If you’ve got so much time on your hands to poke the Russian bear, why don’t you expend some energy on doing something about climate change? You know, instead of just pretending the problem doesn’t exist because it’s politically difficult in an election year. Every other year in the States is an election year. It’s an excuse to never have to engage your giant brain and actually do something. And your giant brain has deluded you into thinking that no one else could possibly be as smart as you and therefore you should get all the toys and cupcakes. This is laziness and intellectual dishonesty at its core. Talk about entitlement.
And pro tip: Just because someone speaks English with an accent doesn’t make them stupid. Nor does it make them smart—I’m looking at you, Henry Kissinger. You are the original proponent of the take-all-the-toys-stick-your-fingers-in-your-ears-and-coast-on-your-reputation-for-smarts strategy. You and Bob Mcnamara, who admitted his oopsie only after millions of Vietnamese had died. Good timing. Lots of other people smarter than you knew that what you were doing was wrong before you even started doing it. Nobody listened to them. Just like no one is listening now, instead leaving the reins in the hands of the utter children currently in charge of the U.S.
In conclusion, stop listening to people who you’ve been told are smart but who never seem to say anything smart or reasonable or well-informed. They are going to lead us down the primrose path of destruction and make life a lot worse for everyone.
I didn’t include any citations or references in the main text although there are many good ones and they all pretty much say the same thing: the mainstream media/U.S. version of events is pure mendacity. This example from the article Obama’s Sleepwalk Toward War by Paul Craig Roberts (CounterPunch) is as good an example as any.
Paul Craig Roberts continues to report well and honestly. Tariq Ali also described the hypocrisy as breathtaking, Pepe Escobar is always informative. Diane Johnstone also wrote eloquently and well on the topic and drew parallels to NATO and the U.S. in Yugoslavia. Israel Shamir continues to provide good background. And not all members of the EU are equally deluded: Gregor Gysi gave a good and impassioned speech to the German Bundestag. James Howard Kunstler notes that “In [his] lifetime, there has never been a more pointless and unnecessary international crisis than the current rumble over Ukraine, and it’s pretty much all our doing” before returning to his reporting on the ongoing global financial collapse, suggesting that this might be more important (I chose climate change above).
Even the text of Vladimir Putin’s speech to the Kremlin after accepting Crimea back into the fold, is very good and historically informative reading (and is not without humor; see emphasis).
5 months Ago
Learn what not to believe
The article Ukraine: who to read, what to believe? by Chris Bertram (Crooked Timber) captures perfectly the thought that everyone should have before pretending to even have a clue as to what’s going on over there.
This goes double for anyone who was dead certain on what would/should happen in Libya or Egypt or Afghanistan or Iraq. I have been muddling through innumerable articles and opinions and views and historical recaps—of both the deep and shallow past in the region—and think I may perhaps finally have some decent idea of what I might think about the turmoil in which Ukrainians find themselves.
As ever, most of such research is about discarding information that is not useful and letting that which is useful bubble up. In this, you can rely on some personalities who never fail to be wrong or disingenuous. Using such lighthouses or ignorance and self-serving venality, it is much easier to avoid the dangerous, swirling shoals in which you might otherwise disappear. John Kerry, I’m totally looking at you.
On the other hand, as I’ve read through tons of material, I’ve distilled a few reasonable authors from the mix, like Robert Parry, Israel Shamir, Andre Vlitchik, Paul Craig Roberts, William Boardman and the editors of n+1 magazine. Essayists to avoid are David Remnick, Thomas Snyder and pretty much all of the usual suspects in the Western mainstream media. As illustrated in a few links below, even some ordinarily more alert sources like Glenn Greenwald and Abby Martin have been deluded into reporting within the parameters of false assumptions.
A good rule of thumb is to trust only sources that consider themselves to be uncertain (because the situation is far from clear) and which are willing to admit mistakes and correct their picture of the situation as new data arrives. These are pretty much the usual rules for consuming media, but all the more important in this case because of the high stakes and also because many historically less-biased sources have already gone completely off the rails in their anti-Russic and anti-Putin inclinations, which is neither constructive nor likely to result in a useful picture of the situation.
Standard Operating Procedure
The standards of Western propaganda are in place: every leader you don’t like is a “dictator”. For good measure, call them “communist” as well, even though the term doesn’t even begin to apply. Yanukovich was elected three years ago. Call him a deposed dictator. That makes the putsch much more palatable. Putin is also an elected leader. Call him a dictator as well. And a communist. And crazy, don’t forget crazy. Irrational and unpredictable. Liable to do anything. A perfect justification for preëmptive military action. Hillary Clinton already played the Godwin card (Wikipedia), in utter ignorance of history.
The US media and US think-tank denizens are actively detrimental to trying to figure out what’s going on. They are distracting clowns. They make up details from whole cloth and then use those to present a simplistic and straightforward interpretation that can only end in Putin’s Russia being purest evil and the US and Europe pure goodness, once more reluctantly gearing up for war. These people pose behind auspicious-sounding organizations that lend gravitas to their statements in the ears of those desperate for clarity and uncertain of their own understanding. And perhaps too lazy to look further but unwilling to abandon their quest to gain knowledge empty-handed.
For example, the Daily Show hosted a woman who writes for Foreign Policy (I’m not even going to bother looking up her name), who presented an utterly simplistic view of the situation. She made historically inaccurate statements throughout, utterly ignoring even the high points of foreign policy of the last two decades, ostensibly her milieu. If someone purporting to be an authority in this area doesn’t even acknowledge that the accusation of Western hypocrisy must at least be addressed, then their opinion is worth nothing (to me, at least). They should at least do us the honor of trying to explain why Crimea isn’t at all like Ukraine without being stupid. Or like Kosovo. Or like the fledgling 13 colonies of nearly 250 years ago.
The Colbert Report didn’t do its viewers much service either. The guy from Foreign Policy vastly oversimplified things, depicting the Ukrainian plight as a choice between the evil, Russian bear and the welcoming arms of liberty in Europe, which is utter horseshit. He also utterly failed to even hint that the opinion of the actual people living in Ukraine should be consulted in any way.
Lies, damned lies and social media
It’s insane and sickening. That’s the only appropriate description for the misinformation feeding frenzy. Did you see the picture of the Russian tank rolling on Crimea? You can be pretty sure it was a tank, but was it in Crimea? Was it even Russian? Was it even footage from this decade?
On the Internet, everything is fake unless proven otherwise. Enjoy it if you like, even if part of your enjoyment is that you think it’s real, but don’t actually believe it’s real without proof. Since journalism no longer really exists, we have only volunteer reporters in the form of social-media rumors, inundating Twitter and Facebook in a tsunami of truthiness. Even the major news organizations use stock footage all the time. Is Anderson Cooper really in Crimea? Right in the middle of Sebastopol? No, he is not. He’s in front of a green screen. This is, somehow, legal.
The other day, I saw a short clip that was strongly implied to represent modern-day Switzerland on the Daily Show. The plane taking off said “Swiss Air” on the side. It hasn’t been called that for over a dozen years. Footage is recycled. Photos are recycled. They don’t have to be real to prove a point. And even if the photo hasn’t been doctored, it doesn’t mean that it represents what they say it does.
It would be nice to be able to trust such sources, but we clearly cannot. Even when they are not being deliberately mendacious or at least very slippery with their presentation, the thoroughness of most sources has proven catastrophically bad. That is, even if “reporters” earnestly believe that what they are presenting is true, there are good odds that they themselves have been fooled or manipulated.
The remainder of this article will consist of links to other articles and citations mixed in with notes of my own. I tried to roughly group them but YMMV.
Snipers and invasions
And what about the snipers? One side says it was definitely the Ukrainian police—Yanukovich’s shock troops—who, while not disinclined to beating protesters, seemed otherwise averse to outright killing them. In fact, many of them defected during the uprising.
Others say that it’s not clear that the snipers weren’t affiliated with the opposition, which is acknowledged by all sides to be a patchwork of ideologies and groups, united in their desire to gain control of the Ukraine. Some of them might even have had the interests of the people at heart. Were they all above sniping their own citizens in order to cement hatred of the police, who would be blamed? I can’t rule that out.
Were they CIA operatives, fine-tuning a revolution to push it in the direction desired by the US? Building “facts on the ground”, as it were, in order to provide fodder for the good vs. evil narrative so earnestly desired by the West? Lord knows we can’t rule that out. It wouldn’t be the first time. Or even the tenth. We can wait 30 years for those records to be released under the FOIA and maybe then we’ll know for sure. When it no longer matters.
Russian troops are descending on Crimea, right? But weren’t they already stationed there? Don’t they already have a large military presence there? We can discuss the legitimacy of a foreign nation establishing military bases in sovereign nations, but simply sending more troops to a base that already exists is not justification for DEFCON 1. No more than the US sending more troops to its burgeoning bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Okinawa, Germany or Korea would be.
It’s the economy, stupid
What Happened in Ukraine Was a Presidential Coup, Pure and Simple by Robert Parry (AlterNet)
Ukraine needs help in order to even get through the year. Where to turn? Europe’s offer is meager—it has more than enough troubles of its own as well any number of already-crashing economies in its basket—and would funnel all aid through the IMF, a notoriously harsh and inept organization that has historically done far more for its oligarchic rulers than the people in the countries that it “assists”. Ideology has, for decades, trumped reality in that organization. And compassion and actual assistance doesn’t enter into it. It is public-relations ploy to cover a mechanism by which maximum returns on failed Western investment—private and government—are extracted.
Why Joining Russia Might Be Crimea’s Most Reasonable Option by Robert Parry (AlterNet)
Yet another regime change
I’ve read some seriously differing opinions. The right-wing is controlling it, the left is triumphant, Putin is happy, Putin is sad, Putin did it, the US did, Europe provoked it, Europe is happy, Europe is sad. My $0.02? Probably most Ukrainians are gonna not notice in the short term, but a democratically elected government was just *couped*, so that’s gonna leave a mark. No matter what you think of the former president, at least half of the country might just be a bit f’in surprised that the president they elected about 3 years ago just got thrown the fuck out. There’s also the little matter of the Ukraine being seriously strapped for cash (30B just this year). Putin promised 15 of it but it remains to be seen whether Russia feels beholden to a country without an elected government. Of course, they could go to Europe and the IMF. That always turns out well for the debtor country.
The coup (it was a coup)
What Happened in Ukraine Was a Presidential Coup, Pure and Simple by Robert Parry (AlterNet)
Hatin’ on Putin
I highly recommend reading the entire transcript. I cannot verify the accuracy of the translation, but the original version in Russian is also available.
U.S. Provokes Russia, Acts Surprised to Get Nasty Reaction by William Boardman (AlterNet)
Yanukovich was placating NATO but that clearly wasn’t going to be good enough. But isn’t the NATO presence right on Russia’s borders pretty much the only thing that has reliably caused them to bristle?
Boardman gave David Remnick of the New York Times much more credit than I would have, but he also pointed out that Remnick is definitely in the camp of the “presstitutes” as outlined by Paul Craig Roberts above.
The article goes on to provide a much more even-handed and reality-based listing of Putin’s actual crimes—things for which he should actually be denigrated—rather than the cartoonish Lucifer-like image that the Western press is much more comfortable with.
History of the region
The article Ukraine, Putin, and the West (n+1) provides an excellent and extremely evenly and well-written article describing the history of the revolution—to the degree possible from disparate sources—from late last year until the present day.
For example, they discuss how the more media-savvy elements of the opposition tried to ensure that the situation would be reported in a black-and-white way conducive to their goals.
Before I’d read this, I’d already discarded Snyder as a reliable source simply because he wrote as if he was writing a film script—his prose is lovely but whitewashed and indistinguishable from propaganda. Similarly, Stephen Cohen was one of the earlier interviews I’d read and, though he struck me as reasonable, he seemed also too sure of himself and too pro-Russia in the sense that he was also too willing to depict the situation as black and white, this time holding Russia utterly blameless, which is also not true.
As with other sources interested in getting to the heart of the unrest in Ukraine and the possible reasons why Russia wasn’t so interested in retaining it or why Europe was only willing to take it on if it could get Ukraine for free, n+1 examined the underlying economic situation.
There were fascists among the protesters and they were a driving force behind the ultimate takeover—but the throngs that showed up to protest in the freezing cold were not all fascists. Nor were they proponents of Western democracy. No, they were mostly people who were intensely interested in where their meals would be coming from in the ensuing years and were strongly convinced that a Ukraine with Yakunkovich at the helm wasn’t going to provide them with the stability that they craved.
Once things turned shitty, though, a lot of those people melted away. They were frustrated and wanted their voices to push the revolution forward to get the reforms they wanted, but they weren’t fighters. The increasing chaos distilled the fighters from the throng.
Let us imagine how many dead there would be in the US were there to be similarly equipped protestor shock-troops in the streets of an American city, say New York. I think that 80-100 dead in total would be a relatively low number in that case. This is not to argue that everyone acted splendidly, do not misunderstand, but that a death tool in the low triple digits is ridiculously low for the overthrow of a government in a country of 50 million people. The revolution was about as bloodless as could be expected. It could have been even more so as expressed by a mystified Putin in a press conference (see below), where he detailed that Yanukovitch had already signed over all power and capitulated to all demands before the protestors kicked the violence into high gear.
While the editors of N+1 acknowledged that the troops referenced by Western sources were drawn from those already stationed in Sebastopol, they also noted that the Russian military there didn’t stay on base, as they always had before.
It’s also interesting to muse on the value of the propaganda coming from both sides. The Western propaganda is objectively more insidious in that it deviates much farther from the actual facts and is also clearly designed to influence decisions in ways that are grossly pro-Europe and pro-U.S. What about the various media sources that parrot this information, though?
Money, IMF and Austerity
What Yanukovich should have done/said:
Snyder’s a hack
This telling of the story places the entire blame squarely on Yanukovich and makes the EU deal look much sweeter than any other source I’ve read. It is unlikely to be true. Just as it is unlikely that Yanukovitch is solely responsible for the $30 Billion hole in the Ukraine budget, as Snyder also intimates, if not outright alleges (“If a leader steals so much from the people that the state goes bankrupt, then his power is diminished. Yanukovych actually faced this problem last year.”). The rest of Snyder’s telling educes much more clarity than the situation warrants, finding a “a lonely, courageous Ukrainian rebel”—otherwise largely unmentioned in other sources—to imbue this revolution with the proper Hollywood backdrop. “When protesters followed, they were shot by snipers who had taken up positions on rooftops.” Who were the snipers? Snyder does not say. We are left to assume that they were police or supporters of the regime. It makes for a better story, anyway, and the pacing of the article is much more like a movie script than journalism. Ukraine under its new leadership (usurpers, recall) is portrayed as a paradise of thought and openness.
Young women were observed in squares across the country, placing early crocuses stem-first into the barrels of rifles. Tears rolled down scarred cheeks behind scarred faceshields.
Snyder sees far more leftists involved in this coup than other accounts I’ve read. It would be somewhat unusual for the left to be so strong in the Ukraine, when anti-communist purges lay so recently in the past. And when Europe is so lacking in anything approaching a useful left at all. It’s possible that the Ukrainians are worlds ahead of countries like France and Switzerland, which have of late been so reactionary, but it’s hard to believe.
Snyder ends with a plea:
I fear that the word “story” here will come back to haunt him.
What Happened in Ukraine was a Presidential Coup, Pure and Simple by Robert Parry (AlterNet)
Russia was uninvolved compared to the U.S./EU
The analysis in Why the Crisis in Ukraine Isn’t the Start of a New Cold War by Zack Beauchamp (AlterNet) comes to what is probably the right conclusion but for the wrong reasons. It does, however, examine more closely the issue of Sevastapol in Crimea—and the vital importance of the Russian naval base there. But when it states that Russia “can’t make progress towards bending the world to its will using the sort of strategies it has tried to date”, it smacks a bit too much of trying to re-awaken the cold war.
Why Obama Shouldn’t Fall for Putin’s Ukrainian Folly by Anatol Lieven (Zocalo Public Square)
This seems to directly contradict what Stephen Cohen (see below) said.
This is a much stronger point than I’ve seen made elsewhere.
Rumors of NATO’s death are greatly exaggerated. Almost a quarter of a century after it lost its entire reason for being, it is larger than ever and has had any number of military adventures in the meantime.
The Anti-Empire Report #126 by William Blum
Crimea by Justin Erik Halldór Smith
But somehow the alternative, that a current imperial power increase its dominion, is assumed even by someone like Smith to be somehow preferable to anything that the Russians could offer. That the region will be left to its own devies by the West is a possibility too ludicrous to even seriously contemplate. Witness the manipulations that went on in Kiev in the vacuum left by Russia’s initial—and mostly continuing—indifference. The underlying benevolence of Western hegemony infects even Justin’s work these days.
Granted that this is likely very true. But is not the same true of the purported shining knights of Europe or the U.S.? Are we supposed to believe the implication that these are better because they are ‘not Putin’? Have they not proven their evil sufficiently? When assholes like Cheney and Rumsfeld and (Condaleeza) Rice are replaced by morally bankrupt harridans like Samantha Power, Susan Rice and even John Kerry. Far better indeed are these subtle and cold-hearted interventionist warmongers, who are less ostentatious than these gauche Russian barbarians but who rack up so much more carnage.
I am almost astonished to note that Smith thinks he is describing only Putin’s regime in the above citation. Again, let us for the sake of argument, assume that this characterization of Putin as overarching evil is true (good-guy deeds in Syria and Iran notwithstanding). In the case of Ukraine, however, the Putsch of an elected government was engineered by the West. Charges leveled against Putin are allegations. Those leveled against the West are facts disputed by no one. Why the special animosity for the arguably least-involved party in this dispute to date?
Oh bullshit. It was almost two-hundred years ago. Nobody cares about the Armenians, the Aztecs, the Mayans and so on. Why should they care about this? Get in line. The Olympic juggernaut is responsible for much, but suppression of the Circassian genocide? That one’s just bad marketing.
Really? No terrorist attack would have been just as bad? The worst thing you can imagine is Putin getting bonus points for the Olympics? How brainwashed did you actually get in the Ukraine? Clearly they are way better than the “grovelling and sycophantic western left”, who also happen to be actively suppressed, utterly powerless and politically insignificant. But go ahead and pile on them and blame the Ukrainian mess on an ineffective Western left-wing movement, I suppose.
Notes from Far Muscovy by Justin Erik Halldór Smith
Not sure I agree. Again, maybe his ivory tower is a touch too high, as evidenced by his implied pride about being clueless about hockey, despite having spent years in Canada. As a self-styled assimilator of culture and language, Smith is sounding quite out of touch. The statement is patently untrue, at least in most corners of America. Perhaps not at universities.
Talk about a guy who’s either only experienced white middle-class America or is choosing to only channel that part for this essay. The years where this statement applied to almost any non-WASP in America are not that far in the past.
Natural gas pipelines
U.S. and European meddling
The U.S. barely even attempted to hide its involvement, although this may have been mostly due to the new-found ineptness of the young ambassadors in the region, epitomized most recently by “Victoria Nuland, now Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs”:
There’s another bellwether of wrongness: good ol’ BHL himself. Just do the opposite of what he says and you’re generally in good shape.
Obama isn’t much better, effectively doing all but declaring war on Russia if it fails to shut sit down and shut up while Europe and the US dismantle countries on its borders, setting them up at NATO bases.
This despite the fact that Russia was quite instrumental in brokering non-violent resolutions to chemical weapons in Syria (reductions proceed apace and on schedule) and enriched-uranium stockpiles in Iran (reserves dipped below a landmark just last week).
What Happened in Ukraine Was a Presidential Coup, Pure and Simple by Robert Parry (AlterNet)
Or perhaps it’s because of these things; who can tell with these homicidal fools? Maybe they’re all just pissed at Putin because he took away their fabricated excuses for making more war. We’re running out of other explanations.
More economics, the IMF and backroom deals
Is Ukraine’s Opposition a Democratic Movement or a Force of Right-Wing Extremism? by Anton Shekhovtsov & Stephen Cohen
In this interview, Anton Shekhovtsov says that “many people in the West buy into Russian propaganda which is saying that Euromaidan is infiltrated by the neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. And this is completely untrue.” Many other sources disagree with that blanket statement, including professor Stephen Cohen, also in this interview. There’s also this video, Neo-Nazi threat in new Ukraine by BBC (YouTube), originally broadcast on BBC Newsnight, that includes interviews with rebel leaders who are not shy at all about their extreme right-wing/fascist/National Socialist beliefs and affiliations. BBC Newsnight has a relatively good history of factual reporting.
So Ukraine gets 600 million to become the next Greece, which is a nice consolation prize, I guess. At least some of the rioters are still deluded into thinking that Europe will treat them better than Russia. Many of the others would like to get the hell away from both of them and stand on their own. Not going to be easy at all, though. Ukraine wants be Switzerland.
Europe’s deal included a neat little underhanded clause that requires them to host NATO bases and forces—right on Russia’s doorstep. And Russia’s offer to help the Ukraine was *not* contingent on them refusing help from Europe. Europe’s offer required the Ukraine to turn down Russia. But the big, bad bear will always be the big, bad bear, I guess. That’s how we was raised!
See the article Israel and Ukraine by Uri Avnery (CounterPunch). Avnery is over 90 years old and has managed to avoid the right-wing bias and insular thinking that comes with age. He wrote the following:
In the article Is Ukraine’s Opposition a Democratic Movement or a Force of Right-Wing Extremism?, Stephen Cohen—professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University—says,
 He is ordinarily much more thoughtful and careful to strain out such emotional sentiments. It may be due to his having steeped himself in the Russian left on a recent trip to Moscow and Kiev.↩
 Let the ordinarily gender-specific epithet emasculate him as well.↩
6 months Ago
The first rule of policing
The post Dallas Cops Fight For the First Rule of Policing by Scott H. Greenfield (Simple Justice) defines that rule as “make it home for dinner”. No matter what else is going on that day or how a given situation develops, the first rule is self-preservation. Everything else—including gunned-down innocents—can be handled later and usually papered over with the help of others, both on the force and on the bench.
This post discusses a shooting incident in Dallas, in which a 48-year–old officer was, believe it or not, actually found guilty of using “deadly force […] without fear or justification” and summarily fired. A mere mortal would have been charged with “assault with a deadly weapon” or perhaps even “attempted murder” and would most certainly not be getting even a part of their pension, but let’s not quibble. The termination of employment is enough of a pleasant surprise that we should enjoy it.
The decision leads to an effort to revamp policy to avoid future, similar incidents, which isn’t sitting well with the rest of the Dallas police force. Not being able to shoot people that “surprise” them or aren’t otherwise already lying face-down on the sidewalk in tasered glory is going to seriously impinge on their ability to “get home for dinner”.
It’s understood that a cop’s life is on the line in a way not found in most other jobs. But
This amounts to the same protections demanded by torturers and their backers in US federal employ. Because they’d like to be able to use torture if they deem it necessary, they also want it to be legal. Such a priori legalization benefits only the person who intends to do harm. Anyone who would wield such power carefully would also be willing to bear the responsibility and blame should something go wrong.
Engendering fear of police to this degree is going to cause a backlash that can only end in a death-spiral of violence, one that has arguably already begun quite some time ago.
This just in: court does not believe bullshit planted-drugs story
The post 2d Circuit: Aw, Come On. That Can’t Be True by Scott H. Greenfield (Simple Justice) tells the tale of a court that “[did] the unthinkable: reject the government’s allegations as “unreasonable.””
The situation involved an arrested and handcuffed bystander. He was “arrested for being in the vicinity after a fight occurred”, which I didn’t even know was a thing. He allegedly managed to squirrel away drugs into the backseat of a police vehicle. To this, the court found that,
Nicely put. Greenfield goes on to mention that this case really is noteworthy because, while the conclusion is obvious to we lay-people, it is not a foregone conclusion that upholding the “laws of physics [trumps] the rule of law […] when it comes to contraband”.
Kelly Thomas’s killers found innocent
The post The Outrage of the Kelly Thomas Cops’ Acquittal by Scott H. Greenfield (Simple Justice) discusses the recent conclusion of the case against two officers who beat a mentally handicapped man named Kelly Thomas to death.
The beating was captured on video (YouTube). After officers antagonized him for just over 15 minutes, Thomas stands up. This is enough for the officers to pull out their nightsticks and go to work on him. For once, the description of a YouTube video includes some useful information:
You can hear him screaming for help and apologizing as the beat continues for about 10 minutes, culminating in his motionless body lying on the sidewalk under a pile of about a half dozen officers. When he was finally taken to the hospital, he looked like he’d been run over by several trucks (Friends For Fullerton's Future) (brace yourself; it’s pretty horrific).
The officers charged for this beating/murder were acquitted by a jury of their peers. As Greenfield put it:
This should be the end of the matter. The cops were tried and found not guilty. That’s all we can do in America because of a little thing called the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. However, “the Thomas family has called for a federal prosecution for the denial of Kelly Thomas’ civil rights”. They can do this under something called “dual sovereignty”, which (sometimes) allows a person to be tried at both the state and the federal level for the same crime. Greenfield provides a lucid, logical and well-written summary:
Cartoonist Ted Rall published the following cartoon at the end of 2013:
The first couple of panels document the most recent transgressions that the Obama administration has made under the auspices of the NDAA—the National Defense Authorization Act. These include sweeping away constitutionally guaranteed rights in a manner breathtaking even for citizens who survived eight years of the Bush/Cheney administration.
The final panel shows a soldier wondering how this can be, while another patiently explains.