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Friday, May 27, 2011

Through the Eye of a Needle

And now a return to more traditional commentary-slash-re-reportage at the Dystopia Diaries . . .

Some unexpected good news here:  A Wisconsin judge has ruled that the passage of Governor Scott Walker's aggressive union-busting bill's, engineered late in the night without the statutorially required 24 hours notice or the quorum necessary for a budget bill, is a violation of the state's open meetings law.  An injunction is now in place to prevent the bill's enforcement.

You may recall the raucuous buildup to the April 5th Wisconsin Supreme Court election which was widely seen as a referendum on that un-precedented (and now apparently un-lawful) powergrab, an Orwellian abuse of rhetoric and procedure whose only certain purpose was to destroy any group to politcally organize outside the orbit of his Koch brothers patrons.  David Prosser, the Republican incumbent was and still is regarded as strongly in favour of Walker's dubious scheme, whereas his opponent, Madison-based JoAnne Kloppenberg ran on the ticket of the Democratic party who not unnaturally opposed it.

But if the buildup was a barn-burner, the prolonged aftermath was distinctly anti-climactic.  The 11th hour defection of one of Prosser's campaign managers seemed to deal a heavy blow to the Republican's judicial credibility.  Lazy or naive[1] commentators would have expected the hoary old chestnut about Wisconsin being the clean-government state, a la it's Robert La Follette heritage, to come into play here and cast Prosser's chances in doubt.

However, as so often happens, The Lord delivered a miracle unto his Chosen People.  One day after poll close, when current stats showed the candidates within .00001% of each other, a prodigy appeared unto Wisconsin:  an additional 14,000 votes which "mistakenly" did not appear in those original tallies, which eventually translated into a decisive 7,000+ vote "victory" for Prosser.

Now that's not the anticlimactic part;  I love a good make-believe fairy tale as much as anybody else.  No, the anticlimax came when you got to look closer at the Instrument of Divine Will that the Lord had chosen.  This was not exactly the Immaculate Conception that I had been raised to believe in as a young Roman Catholic child.  For starters, Kathy Nickolaus, the Waukesha County clerk who delivered these "votes" turned out to have been a former employee of Prosser's--who has a rather complicated "compliance" history vis-a-vis the Government Accountability Board.

Things only got more gruesome when the inevitable recall procedures got started in earnest. [2]  The control tag for the very first bag of "votes" selected for recount in Wauksha was incorrectly entered tracking log.  As this weary sham slogged on we were presented with the sight of numerous bags with loose seals or seals completely broken open. Yeah, no reason to suspect a "ballot" could have been crammed into there after certification.

That last bit was sarcasm, of course.  My breaking of the fourth wall here, if you will, isn't merely gratuitous.  I know that YOU, dear reader, are not a fucking idiot and don't need to be told outright that this is an outrage unto the very notion of electoral integrity.  But apparently Judge Maudsley, and many of the Democratic count observers need to be told that.  For they completely allowed all these votes to be entered into the ultimate and final official tally, setting the seal on Prosser's "win".  Yes, fortuna favet audaci [3], alright, and so do spineless fools who care more for casting themselves in a pleasing appearance of polite decorum than getting themselves lathered into a holy fury in the defense of virtue, a la Jesus before the money changers in the Temple.

And today the announcement that this bill's passing was procedurally unconstitutional.  Kenosha people have great reason to be proud of Representative Peter Barca, who immediately cried foul on the violation of the open meetings law, and seems to have been the driving force behind this legal challenge.  But the story is far from over. 

True, the July 12 recall elections of several republican senators (currently) appear poised to send a very strong message condemning Caudillo Walker's junta.  But I'm not personally optimistic about the odds of wresting control of the senate from Republicans--though Repbulican senate majority leader and Walker tool, Scotty "Big Fitz" Fitzgerald apparently IS frightened.  And despite the superhuman heroism of stalwarts for virtue like "Wisconsin 14" Senators Bob Wirch (Kenosha) and Chris Larson (Milwaukee), there simply are no procedural bullets available at this time to prevent Walker for steamrolling through a huge list of Christmas presents for his financial and ideological puppetmasters.

All that is assuming, however, that The Lord is unable to find any vessels as fit for his purpose as pliant as Kathy Nickolaus seems to have been.  The lack-lustre results of the GOP's own efforts to recall Democrats, give working people some reason to hope.  But then, since when have the opinions of working people counted in the eyes of the God of the Prosperity Gospel?  Jesus may have believed that it is more difficult for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle [4], but Scott Walker and David Prosser don't appear to be of the same opinion.  And then again, Jesus was just some slob from the shitty Gallilee Local777 of the Judean Carpenters Union--he didn't have nearly the money or connections of the Koch brothers.

The union-busting bill is expected to go before David Prosser's supreme court later this year.

[1]  Yeah, that's me: naive.  Of course the bad guys always win.  I'm over four decades on this weary old planet now, but I still can't get it through my skull that willingness to break any law,taboo, custom, oath or vow not only confers a nearly insurmountable tactical advantage over old-fashioned ideals like Honor, Justice or Truth, but is also seen as a positive virtue in a society so totally devoted to being "in it to win it".

[2]  Under Wisconsin law, any candidate may request a recount when he or she is within 0.02% of the "winning" candidate.  While 7,000 votes on a state-wide basis was within that 0.02%, the history of electoral recounts suggested that it would be very difficult, if not exactly statistically impossible, to overcome such a "lead".  Indeed, this turned out to be the case last week--though through a rather disappointing series of events as I've detailed above.

[3] Latin for "Fortune favors the bold."

[4] Mark 10:25

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BO Turns on the Charm: U.S. President Leaves Ireland Early for an Audience with British Monarch

Guess crowns count for more than kin with some people . . . from Anissa Hadaddi at the International Business Times:

A dense cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano was being blown toward Scotland yesterday. While airlines started to cancel their flights, U.S. President Barack Obama was forced to cut short his visit to Ireland as fears of disruptions similar to those engendered by the Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull eruption in April 2010 mounted.

Hope nobody peed in that . . .

U.S. President Barack Obama drinks from a pint of Guinness stout at the Ollie Hayes pub in Moneygall, Ireland May 23, 2011. Obama sipped a pint of stout and cuddled babies on Monday as a tiny Irish village on Monday welcomed home "a long lost cousin" with an outpouring of affection. Hoisting a glass of Guinness at Ollie Hayes pub as fiddle music played, Obama thus began a four-nation tour of Europe with a celebration of his ancestral roots.

The expected disruption in Scotland is being caused by the smaller of two ash clouds from the volcano, with the main cloud causing minor disruptions around Scandinavia.

Officials say they don't expect the problems caused by the Grimsvotn volcano that began erupting on Saturday to be as great as that caused by the previous Icelandic volcano last year, when almost all air traffic in Europe was grounded for several days amid fears that the ash could cause engines to stall. As a result, millions of passengers were stranded for several days.  In an attempt to reassure the public, the authorities maintained that systems and procedures have been largely improved.

Taking a different approach, pilots unions, however, expressed concerns that the ash could still be dangerous. Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said it now appears that ash could affect the U.K. and Ireland throughout the week. Loganair, a Glasgow-based regional airline was yesterday forced to cancel 36 flights scheduled this morning. The airline however added that its flights between Scottish islands would be unaffected.

Obama, who was previously due to spend Monday night in Ireland, preferred instead to fly to London early following fears he could end up stranded in Ireland . It is not the first time an ash cloud affected the U.S. president schedule as last year's ash cloud forced Obama to cancel a trip to Poland, which he is due to visit this week as part of his European tour.

Officials say Obama's schedule in London, where he will spend two days, has not been affected at this point.
Talking to journalists Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the CAA, explained: "Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of people both on board aircraft and on the ground. We can't rule out disruption, but the new arrangements that have been put in place since last year's ash cloud mean the aviation sector is better prepared and will help to reduce any disruption in the event that volcanic ash affects UK airspace."

His comments came after last year many airlines said authorities overestimated the danger and impact that the ash would have had on planes, and accused them of overreaction when airspaces were closed for five days.
CAA spokesman Jonathan Nicholson said that this time authorities would ensure airlines are better informed as they will be constantly updated about the location and density of ash clouds. He however explained that any airline wanting to fly would have to present a safety report to aviation authorities in order to be allowed to fly.

After being closed for almost 36 hours on Monday Keflavik, Iceland's main airport has now reopened and despite flights disruptions still occurring, it remains for now operational.

Yesterday Hjordis Gudmundsdottir, spokeswoman for the airport administrator Isavia, said, "The outlook is good for Keflavik and other Icelandic airports in the coming 24 hours. We don't have a forecast for after that so we wait and see."

If massive disruptions are for now just a threat, the possibility of disruption was nonetheless affecting airline shares, which fell more than the market average. IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, closed down 5.1 per cent yesterday while Lufthansa shed 3.5 per cent and Air France KLM fell 4.5 per cent.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

And Now: The Homily from Brother Dimon . . .

It's 21st May:  If you're reading this, you're in Hell; welfare Queen JP Morgan Chase's CEO, Jamie Dimon provides today's post-rapture homily via AOL/AP/Huffington Post

"US Debt Default Would Be A Moral Disaster"

(AP) DENVER -- It would be a "moral disaster" if the United States were to default on its debts and become unable to pay its obligations, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon said at an appearance in Colorado Thursday evening.

The U.S. is the financial linchpin of the world, and the economic effects of the U.S. defaulting could be "potentially catastrophic," he said at a dinner for the University of Colorado Denver Business School.
"It will dwarf Lehman," Dimon said, referring to the 2008 collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which contributed to the beginning of a global financial crisis.

Dimon's comments came in response to a question about the federal deficit from moderator Tom Petrie, a vice chairman of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Congress is debating raising the country's $14.3 trillion borrowing limit. White House officials say the government will run out of cash to pay expenses Aug. 2, but lawmakers have said they want spending cuts before they agree to raise the debt ceiling.

Dimon got a standing ovation at the dinner, a marked contrast to JPMorgan's annual meeting in Ohio on Tuesday, when more than 400 demonstrators shouted outside. The protests were organized by a coalition of clergy and unions, which is pushing for action and legislation around banking practices that hurt troubled homeowners.

Along with all the major banks in the country, JPMorgan Chase has been criticized for its handling of mortgage foreclosures.
After Petrie noted The New York Times recently called him America's least hated banker, Dimon quipped he never expected to be in a business where he'd be on the receiving end of so much anger.
"Our people work hard, they give a damn, they help their communities," he said.

During the crisis, JPMorgan Chase bought Bear Stearns Cos. and what was left of Washington Mutual Inc. after it failed. It also accepted aid from the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, even though it didn't need to, Dimon said.

Dimon has said government officials told him that taking the aid would boost the health of the financial system and reduce the stigma of only a few banks accepting aid. At the time, Dimon called TARP money a scarlet letter.

Once JPMorgan repaid the aid, Dimon said he was tempted to include a note to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that said, "P.S. During the whole time you were lending us $25 billion, we were loaning you $200 billion" in the form of Treasury instruments the company holds.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kartoonz fer Krist's Sake . . .

Found these bizarre clips on Youtube . . . from an old RTÉ series called "Give Up Yer Aul Sins"

Pretty amazing in its own way.  The narrative content shows a pretty deep familiarity with the characters and plots central to the Christian drama, even if its skimpiness with the gorey brutality of The Passion seems a little naive.  I guess I have to keep in mind that this thing was produced by foreigners, so I shouldn't expect them to demonstrate the sublte mastery of an American artiste like Mel Gibson.

Anyhow, the voice talent on this thing is superb--those actors sound like real kids.  One can only hope the polish of this thing inspires some for-real Americans to step up the plate with the likes of a "Terry Jones and the Westboro Babies" cartoon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sasquatch Sighted At England's Bath Abbey*; Osama Bin Laden Dead at Age 54

"The next worst thing to a battle lost is a battle won,"  Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)

"Team America--Fuck YEAH!"  Joe Cowboy, upon 'foiling' a terrorist plot to destroy Paris

"The more things change, the more they stay the same," French proverb

"Heads you win, tails I lose," Barack Obama to Rance Priebus, November 2012

"100 years of dogs on commemorative plates,"  Dr. Lionel Tobin, British Association for the Paranormal ("B.A.P.", retired)

Obviously you have heard the news by now:  On 1st May 2011, a team of U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. operatives, working from intelligence obtained by the CIA confronted and killed Osama Bin Laden outside his safehouse located in Abottabad, Pakistan.  In accordance with Islamic requirements regarding the prompt internment of corpses, his body was buried at sea within 24 hours of his death.

I found out about this gradually from about 20 after 9pm, Central Time when someone posted a Huffington Post item about Obama giving an urgent, impromptu speech about a grave national security matter.  Additional dribs and drabs came in through the twitter feed of a CNN reporter, Steve Brusk until Obama's actual television appearance.

Whatever your reaction to the news, whether or not you believe it or, as certain readers of Disinformation seem likely, don't even believe that Osama Bin Laden ever existed it has to be admitted that it the announcement itself is of huge practical importance:  Obama's public commitment to the statement raises an enormous question mark over the official rationale for continued military operations in Afghanistan.

Also, what precisely are "paranormal sciences"?  Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron?  How could "supernatural forces" be measured and quantified for empirical study?

Initial Reactions

Judging by media reports and my ancedotal observations of my mostly American Facebook coterie, the immediate response was an overwhelming call to celebration, a recognition that a sort of balance had been restored to the universe by the violent death of a man "credited" or "charged" (if there indeed be a single word or phrase capable of comprehending the attribution of such a heinous crime) with the slaughter of thousands of non-combatants on a sunny morning in Manhattan in September 2001. 

Even staunch opponents of Obama's policy of unconstitutional, eternal warfare seemed overjoyed:  Sure now there no longer lay before us any serious obstacle to the complete and immediate withdrawal of American troops from the Middle East; our causus belli had been completely satisfied.

I myself, however, couldn't really muster the same enthusiasm.  While I recognized that this was surely a hugely significant turning point in the evolution of Ameica's involvement in the region, it was clear to me that there were many curious ambiguous threads woven into this story that are not likely to resolve themselves in the near future, if at all.  True, the dramatic character of the events seemed to shriek a confident certainty.  But 'Certainty' is a moron.

I nearly fucking vomited when I heard NPR tool Guy Raz, referred to NYC, the site of some of the most jubillant celebration as, " . . . the city most affected by Osama Bin Laden."

Downtown Manhattan, Guy Raz' conception
Additionally, it is possible that the Sasquatch, a cryptobiological species almost exclusively associated with the northern Pacific Coast of North America, came to Britain along with Canadian support troops for the 1944 assault on Normandy?


The first question that hit me was, "How the Hell could the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, not have been aware that Bin Laden had been living literally in their back yard for at least four years?"  While Obama's speech vaguely credited the operation's success on cooperation with Pakistani authorities, all detailed reports agreed that:

1.)  The operation was conducted with U.S. personnel only;

2.) The information upon which it was based came from sources detained by U.S. forces;

3.) Pakistani authorities were notified only AFTER the fact;

4.) Abottabad is a Pakistani military town about 60 miles from its capitol city, Islamabad--just about the OPPOSITE end of the country from the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan whence U.S. intelligence services had been directed by the ISI.

So just what the Fuck was really going on here?  Was Bin Laden actually being hidden, aided and abetted by elements of the Pakistani government?  The same government the cash-strapped U.S. had forked over perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars to during the last ten years?  Had we really completely destroyed another country's infrastructure and installed a corrupt gangster puppet regime for no effectual purpose? 

Even if somehow we could honestly come to grips with the loathesome self-horror attendant upon those answers, will we ever be able to make it right again?  Apart from the renewed Taliban savageness in Afghanistan, the various demotic movements in the Islamic world of recent months make it clear that Pakistani society iself now needs to come to grips with the shadowy games that its troubled government has been playing on its behalf--independently of U.S. influence.

In light of these developments, we seriously have to consider the possibility that the extraordinary "Star Chamber" character of the proceedings against Dr. Lionel Tobin were actuated by motives of petty jealousy far beneath the supposed dignity of the British Association of Parapsychologists.


I have to say that at this point, I don't think that big changes are likely.  Not in the near term, anyhow.  Not without increased bloodshed.  First of all, there is no one in the world, let alone the region, capable, after a decade of dirty black ops tricks, rank media manipulation and the understandable paranoia inflicted by vicious civil wars, of garnering enough credibility and good will to command the uncontested loyalties of the region's peoples.

In truth, the mere death of Bin Laden isn't really even much of a speed bump, even, to the conduct of the conflict. Mainstream media security pundits have been quick to point out that Bin Laden's deep cover had effectively relegated him to the position of symbolic figurehead years ago, and de facto day-to-day control of operations have been in the hands of Ayman al-Zawahiri.  Whether or not you believe this to be the factual case, it is the accepted narrative of the media, and it is the narrative that will drive the future conduct of American policy:  No big changes in the foreseeable future.

Least of all because of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.  Remember that Sec. of State Hilary Clinton has on numerous occassions gone on record re-affirming America's prolonged commitment in the region is due at least as much to the presence of nuclear weapons in Pakistan as avenging the events of 9/11.  Show of hands out there as to how many people think that such a threat, even if you consider it primarily theoretical rather than actual, would be REDUCED by a Pakistani population enraged by yet another unauthorized U.S. military operation within their sovereign territory?

Are the fetid, manure-like odors cited by more recent observers in Bath Abbey further evidence of the Sasquatch's continued lurking within the buildings confines?  I shudder to think . . .


I admit that I'm just sounding the depths out there on how regional realpolitik will affect American policy going forward.  Testing my intuitions.  However, to me,  the ultimate effects of this announcement on American presidential politics seem much clearer:  Obama will be punished.

I realize that this may seem utterly counter-intuitive to many readers.  It certainly does run against the grain of the current tide of popular opinion that I see being expressed on Facebook and other popular and social media.  But it should be recognized that this is the 2nd day of May 2011--exacly 554 days before the presidential election and  more than a year before even the party nominations are expected to be officially announced.  And I am totally convinced that if there is anyone on this earth incompetent enough to fuck up the apparently unassailable PR advantage of being the "sheriff who shot" Osam Bin Laden, it is Barack Hussein Obama.

Given the feckless stupidity of the American electorate and the depressingly powerful entropic forces of realpolitik that most likely mean either a humiliating American retreat from the region, or more likely, an increasingly obvious stalement that will totally expose Obama's essential powerlessness and rhetorical falsity over the next 554 days, the conclusion seems a foregone result:  An as-of-yet TBA Republican nominee will receive credit for "successful" conduct of a muscular American military policy, while Obama will be blamed for its inevitable failure.  This is the typical result of the cartoonish dichotomy established for the kabuki theatre that we call America's two party Democratic (Mommy party) / Republican (Daddy party) system.

This time there will be no fantasy market bubbles to save Obama, a la Bill Clinton in 1996 or ginned-up wartime enthusiam to tide him over a la Bush II in 2004.  Even in the unlikely scenario that Obama does announce a plan to immediately and drastically reduce troop commitments in the region, it will not be practically possible to put it into effect before the election.  With regard to Ameicans' attention spans, they have a 16-oz drinking habit and 4-oz bladders;  they'll piss all overthemselves long before the pint has a chance to get warm.

Finally, how long can the creators of this video, Dave Clark and Kevin MacLeod, escape the same fate of enforced pixilation suffered by Dr. Tobin?  I fear that the vengeful tentacles of the B.A.P. extend deeper and further than they may imagine.

*Surrealistic metacommentary on my part.  View the full 3-video series:  "The Secret History of Bath Abbey"
by Dave Clark and Kevin MacLeod, on the BlueCrayon77 channel at Youtube.