Victimless punishment

Eric Holder, Wall Street Double Agent, Comes in From the Cold
Barack Obama’s former top cop cashes in after six years of letting banks run wild
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/eric-holder-wall-street-double-agent-comes-in-from-the-cold-20150708

Funny, you don’t hear any libertarians or Tea Partiers carping about this, just dyed in the wool progressives like Matt. Why is that? Why is it that one of the harshest critics (excepting, of course, the frothing-at-the-mouth morons that will hate any democrat, particularly a _black_ one) is a progressive liberal? Him and Glenn Greenwald, another progressive. Here we are winding up Bush’s fourth term. Cheney should be proud, his policies have been in place now for almost 16 years. If Hillary gets elected, another 4-8 years!

I plan on voting for Bernie any chance I get. I view him as the only realistic way to turn the tide, or heck, get it to stop rising!

Making bail unattainable

Jailed for Being Broke
A broken bail system makes poor defendants collateral damage in modern policing strategies
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/jailed-for-being-broke-20150623

More proof of the great country we all live in. Matt, once again, has an excellent article that should be required reading for all. I am sure, though, that there are plenty of people incapable of realizing what a crime against society this bail business is. As he points out, bail is supposed to _only_ be to ensure the defendant shows up at trial or if there is clear and compelling evidence that the defendant is a danger to society. I haven’t personally had any dealings with the arcana of the bail system, but I have had friends and coworkers who have. In one occasion a coworker’s son had a minor charge in Virgina that, because he is a young stupid punk, he had been ignoring and for which an arrest warrant was made. He was pulled over for some infraction in Maryland where they saw the Virginia warrant and he wound up in jail for a couple of weeks while being extradited. Then several more weeks before bail could be negotiated (in his case the bail was needed because he had already demonstrated he was a dickhead). I left before I could see the resolution, but I expect that he spent well over a month in jail for a minor crime he had yet to be convicted of, all because he was too lazy/stupid to follow the rules. In this case, at least, he brought it all on himself, but the story that Matt describes it seems clear that the problems were all because of our dysfunctional ‘justice’ system.

It has come to this: in America it is now a crime to be poor!

Outlaw paper shredders!

Congressman Warns of Encrypted “Dark Spaces”; Another Says: “Ooooh It Sounds Really Scary”
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/06/03/one-congressman-warns-encrypted-dark-spaces-another-says-ooooh-sounds-really-scary/

“The notion that encryption is somehow different than other forms of destroying and hiding things is simply not true,” Lieu told The Intercept. “Forty years ago, you could make the statement that paper shredders are one of the most damaging things to national security because they destroy documents that law enforcement might want to see.”

It is almost (almost) amusing to me how clueless these people who claim to represent us are (of course, they actually represent the elite 0.001%). I don’t recall the specifics, but fairly recently (couple of years ago) some idiot senator or representative endlessly championed our governments ‘need’ to read everyone’s mail, that is, until she found out that the govt was reading _her_ mail. Suddenly she was against it. What the hell did she think? Oh yeah, she didn’t…

And the idea that somehow the government can have a backdoor that only the government, under a court order (like that has been working so far!) can access. Even in the unbelievably unlikely situation where the backdoor created is unhackable (vanishingly small, so small it is unrealistic in a real world to consider possible, let alone probable), how long until corrupt members of our law enforcement start to use the access without going through proper channels (which, naturally, themselves are subject to abuse).

Burn it! Burn it all down!

How to demolish the oligarchy in 3 easy steps
American democracy has been tainted by lobbying and corporate interests. How do we fix it? Blow it all up
http://www.salon.com/2015/04/24/how_to_demolish_the_oligarchy_in_3_easy_steps/

This is a nice clean summary of some of the pivotal sources of inequality in our ‘great nation’. This doesn’t require that the rich pay higher taxes (though they certainly should), it only requires that parasites on our dysfunctional system get shed for the greatest good for the greatest number…

We have six separate, major American health care programs, with different streams of revenue and based on different systems

America’s health care policies are a dog’s breakfast. America’s retirement policies are a dog’s breakfast that a dog barfed up later.

By my count, that’s four distinct major retirement systems in the U.S.

Education? We have public provision: public K-12 and public community colleges and state universities. Outside of this system of direct public educational provision, we have a separate system of federal student loans. And a third system of federal grants. And because three incompatible systems of aiding higher education are not enough—this is America!—we have yet a fourth, completely different system of tax-favored college savings accounts. America’s system of funding higher education is not quite as insanely complicated as our health care and retirement systems. But we’re getting there!

The political scientist Steven Teles calls this kind of baroque public policy “kludgeocracy.” Another way to describe it would be that Rube Goldberg gets elected and promotes various goals—health care, retirement security, educational access—by means of needlessly elaborate contraptions involving candles, levers, and gerbils running on wheels.

Who benefits from this complexity? Lobbyists, tax preparers, accountants, and rent-seeking parasites in the private sector who figure out how to game these needlessly elaborate systems to skim money from taxpayers and rate payers. Complexity is the friend of corruption. Simplicity, on the other hand, promotes democracy.

Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.

Fantasy? In the short term, sure. The well-paid parasites who profit from complexity will see to that. But there are two kinds of politics: Moving the ball and moving the goal-posts. This is about moving the goal-posts. This is about the next generation, not the next election.

Rome was not built in a day, and the antiquated, crumbling, rat-infested fire hazard that is American public policy will not be condemned, demolished and replaced by a clean, modern, solid structure overnight. But the sooner we start the demolition, the better. In the meantime, “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none” would make a good campaign slogan in 2016.

Our ‘Justice’ system is even more corrupt than I thought!

Will HSBC Deal Come Back to Haunt Loretta Lynch?
Deal to save HSBC’s American office looks very bad in retrospect
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/will-hsbc-deal-come-back-to-haunt-loretta-lynch-20150209

Got to be read to be believed, but the gist of the matter is the ‘punishment’ that our so-called Justice system meted out to HSBC for laundering money for drug cartels (!), a joke at the time, is even more inexplicable given that our government already knew that HSBC was also acting as an illegal tax haven for the wealthy.

And oh, by the way, our soon-to-be new Attorney General Loretta Lynch was instrumental behind it. No question she is a perfect for for Obama, she clearly knows where all sorts of bodies are buried.

So NICE to be an American!

Watchdogs watch in private

’22 fraudulent clinical trials’ on FDA radar ‘hidden from journals and public’
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/289167.php

A trawl of internal documents held by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revealed official action due to “significant departures from good clinical practice” against a total of 57 clinical trials, including 22 affected by “falsification” – yet a parallel search of the published study reports finds no mention of these grave concerns being made public.

This is an incredibly important issue that you likely will never hear about anywhere else. It just shows how beholden the FDA is to industry: they not only keep this stuff private, but even when forced to release it they make every effort to make it difficult to associate the studies with published results.

Your tax dollars at work!

Forming your own echo chamber

The propagandists have won: What Fox News and the pornography revolution have in common
Truthiness has replaced truth. Now that we all have our own facts, we may rue the day we personalized the news
http://www.salon.com/2014/12/21/the_propagandists_have_won_what_fox_news_and_the_pornography_revolution_have_in_common/

I rant about ‘sheeple‘ a lot here and am often frustrated trying to understand why we are that way. While this book excerpt (here is the book on Amazon; I haven’t bought it because I already haven’t read a pile of books I have purchased in the past) doesn’t exactly explain _why_ we are so stupidly credulous, it does describe how we are getting better and better at being so.

There are a lot of interesting parts in the excerpt, the author seems to be a good writer, insofar as turning a phrase. I particularly like how she likens our search for ‘real’ pornography with our search for ‘real’ news (where ‘real’ basically is just confirming our preconceived notions).

Anyway, I encourage my reader(s) to at least take a look at the excerpt…

Whose side are _you_ on?

Free speech and state power: Americans shouldn’t feel complacent about French hypocrisy
Yeah, the French look like merde arresting a comedian for a Facebook post. But we’re free-speech hypocrites too
http://www.salon.com/2015/01/17/free_speech_and_state_power_americans_shouldnt_feel_complacent_about_french_hypocrisy/

Another thoughtful article on Salon; though to be fair, Salon is really a liberal Fox News and tend to spew hysterical left-leaning nonsense (as opposed to the right-leaning nonsense of Fox). Since Greenwald left (he is currently at the Intercept) I have to admit that I don’t spend much time there and often scroll through the Salon main page and don’t even read a single article. However, this one caught my eye as something that gets right to the heart of this ‘free speech’ matter. I will toss out a few quotes in an effort to get my reader(s) to take a deeper look…

In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans eagerly surrendered a wide range of constitutional rights and liberties in the name of an imaginary security. We have accepted a subtly restricted zone of free speech – where we “watch what we say, [and] watch what we do,” in the Rumsfeldian phrase — and have entirely abandoned our traditional conception of privacy rights. It’s not entirely coincidental that the censorious jingoism and groupthink of the Fox News right finds a faint echo on the left, in campus speech codes and similar phenomena designed to purge public discourse of sexism or racism or homophobia. Both sides accept the premise that suppressing undesirable forms of expression is a valid use of power.

We, as a nation of sheeple, neither have, nor deserve security. This goes for ‘free’ speech as well. When the only ‘free’ speech is speech that identifies with those in power (“watch what we say, [and] watch what we do,”) and the ability to be critical of the government or any institution within or without it (hello religious right wing!) is absent then there is no free speech. ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’

What we have here in the good old USofA is just a half step from being the French way of ‘free’ speech.

I have no desire to revisit the tiresome debate among leftists and liberals about whether or not to embrace Charlie Hebdo, which was always a distraction from more urgent political issues. But this was precisely the question: What was Charlie Hebdo’s relationship to power? Was it an equal-opportunity, anti-authoritarian gadfly, as its defenders professed? Or did it consistently “punch down,” by mocking the faith of a despised and marginalized minority on behalf of a racist power structure? Implicit in the question lay the idea that, if the latter theory were borne out, Charlie Hebdo’s so-called freedom was not freedom at all and not worth defending. In the utopian society that lay just over the horizon it would be banned by righteous edict, or at least shamed into nonexistence.

Everything I have read about Charlie indicates he is (was) a frothing-at-the-mouth islamaphobe and was far from an ‘equal opportunity’ gadfly. As such, his ability to rant about the “despised and marginalized minority” has nothing to do with freedom of speech. I also find incredibly hypocritical “those prominent politicians who marched for freedom of expression in Paris”. However, since sheepleness seems a state of being human, I guess it shouldn’t be unexpected at all.

Beneath the complicated and contradictory debate over free speech lies an essential philosophical conflict that doesn’t get discussed openly enough. In American terms, it is often depicted as the division between wild-eyed right-wing libertarians (and a much smaller number of wild-eyed left-wing anarchists) and the normal people who want a normal government. But here’s a telegram from Captain Obvious, or maybe from Mr. Orwell: We don’t have a normal government, people. The conflict over the nature and purpose of state power cannot be boiled down to conventional binaries like right vs. left, or Islam vs. the West, or democracy vs. terrorism, or capitalism vs. whatever-can-be-said-to-oppose capitalism, although it intersects with all those things in unpredictable ways. Either you embrace the idea of state power – the power of your own state, or somebody else’s, or an imaginary state yet to come — as a tool for purifying minds and hearts, encouraging good speech and driving out the bad kind, or you don’t. It’s time to be clear about which side we’re on.

So, whose side are you on? The police state or the people?

Free speech is a sham in the ‘free’ world

France Arrests a Comedian For His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West’s “Free Speech” Celebration
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/14/days-hosting-massive-free-speech-march-france-arrests-comedian-facebook-comments/

I really don’t have much to add, so much like my previous post I just want to ‘retweet’ it. It never ceases to amaze me that people can be so completely two faced and (apparently) not even realize it. ‘We’ are never at fault, ‘they’ are always at fault.

BTW, wasn’t it just a few years ago that ‘french fries’ were renamed ‘freedom fries‘ in our Great Nation’s Capital?

Steadily chipping away…

The Most Important Trial in America
The federal government’s case against the proprietor of a ‘darknet’ website could forever alter how we all use the Internet.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/14/the-most-important-trial-in-america.html

This is something that deserves higher visibility, so I will do my small (tiny (infinitesimal)) part to widen the scope. I agree with this statement:

I have no idea if he is innocent or guilty of all or some of the charges against him, but the manner in which his prosecution is playing out should disturb anyone who cares about justice.

When the government is allowed to break laws willy nilly and the justice department stands idly by, we are no longer a nation of laws. Of course, this has been a reality for quite a while, but sometimes it is hard to convince the sheeple that these things are important. Perhaps one day the government will finally reach a point where they take on someone who isn’t successfully demonized and the sheeple will rally. Or perhaps not…